Cambrian: Slice of Life


Some people collect teacups or dolls. Others assemble world-class assortments of horses, car wheels, bubble-gum wrappers, Chinese checkers or neckties.

Me, I’m a bed-pillow junkie. I have to try every new pillow that comes along.

Maybe it’s because my upper spine objects strenuously to my long hours spent in an endless head-bobbing war between desk, computer keyboard, monitor and bifocals. Or maybe I’m just a pushover for a good marketing spiel.

Whatever the reason, whenever a new and different pillow shows up on the market with flowery promises of good nights’ sleep and unkinked neck, boy, am I a super-sucker.

I’ve got ‘em all, I tell youhard foam pillows, soft Dacron pillows, little round cylinders, bigger round cylinders, squishy down-and-feather pillows that made me sneeze, pillows with hollows already dug in them for your head even a somewhat bizarre pillow made of scientifically spiffy foam that sinks slowly under the weight of my head. Then, after I get up, the foam rises like an over-yeasted bread-dough phoenix. Its “memory foam” may please a lot of people, but all I toss and turn all night, trying in vain to get comfy when my head feels as if it’s being slowly roasted by accumulated heat.

Recently, I experimented with a pillow that’s under-filled with buckwheat hulls, and so far, so good.

I started with a baby-sized “Bucky” pillow, then graduated to one that wraps around the neck and is shaped like something out of an as-yet uninvented Olympics game event, rather like a curling disc crossed with a boomerang.

Then I went hard core, with the heavy-duty, granddaddy Bucky. I use the term “heavy” advisedly — it’s about nine pounds of sturdy, solid and almost immovable hulls.

You’d think it would be like sleeping on a sandbag, and it is, I guess, only a little bouncier somehow.

I plop — and plop is the operative word — Bucky down on the bed and bury my fist in it before I lie down. That creates a burrow for my head. The hole stays put, and when I put my head down, the rest of the pillow’s innards fill in around my ears and the top of my head.

I feel a bit like a human amaryllis bulb in goofy potting soil. It’s a weird sensation, let me tell you. But so far, it works.

And there’s a side benefit: Bucky does not flop and slide around and slither off the bed’s edge. Bucky. Does. Not. Move. Period.

Sleeping on a buckwheat-hull pillow has its hazards. Move around, and Bucky makes funny noises. The cacophony isn’t unpleasant, unlike the mating calls of a wild Styrofoam in a bean-bag chair or cushion. Bucky’s noise is a softer “scrunch-squeak-rattle,” rather like sleeping on maracas equipped with a muffler. But I’ve gotten used to it.

Switching from my back to my side is easy enough. Just burrow a little harder with my shoulder, turn over and adjust the overgrown Beanie Baby. Simple.

Sleeping on my stomach with my head on Bucky, however, is like trying to lay me down on a bag of rice with frogs inside. The scrunch-squeaks get more insistent and, with my ear flat on a pillow that isn’t, the concert gets disconcerting. Besides, unless I’ve placed my head just so, my nose gets wrapped in pillowcase-wrapped buckwheat hulls, which can be a real impediment to breathing.

If you stick one arm under the pillow, as I try not to do but sometimes always do, gangrene could set in before the pain wakes you up.

And for Heaven’s sake, don’t even think about getting into a pillow fight with one of these. You could be charged with assault with a deadly weapon after you cold-cock your partner.

Conversely, once you’ve swung, guess what? There’s no stopping halfway. With the sheer centrifugal force of flinging such a heavy yet floppy pillow, you may wind up with your arms wrapped tightly around yourself and socking yourself with a sack of buckwheat.

“How’d you get the black eye, Kathe?”

“I had a war with my pillow, and I lost.”


In the meantime, my bed-pillow collection growth, and I’m running out of hidey-hole space. Know anybody who wants to buy a bunch of good used bed pillows, cheap? I’d even throw in the baby Bucky, but now my husband has latched onto it. So we scrunch-squeak in unison, and we’ve got the heaviest bed in town.

Next time, I think I’ll collect something a little smaller. And lighter.

This column appeared first in The Cambrian on Jan. 22, 1998.