The Princess and the Pea

When I was a child, I loved the story of the Princess and the Pea—the one about the young woman who was so sensitive that she could detect even something so small as a single pea hidden in her towering stack of mattresses.  And when Carol Burnett’s musical version of that folk tale—Once Upon a Mattress–showed up on television in the sixties, I loved that, too.

The movie may have been televised in color in other parts of the country, but what made it over the Mule Mountains and down the canyons to our home in Bisbee was definitely black and white only.  Even so, when Princess Winnifred arrives in a most unorthodox fashion, her future mother-in-law’s disapproval was on full display when she announced, “She swam the moat!”

Although I loved the story and the movie, I never expected that I, myself, was destined to become a late-in-life version of Princess Winnifred—a pillow style version rather than a mattress one.

I can’t sleep on pillows that are filled with what I suspect to be something similar to astro-turf.  I need feathers.  I need something soft.  Anything else makes my ears ache—not the insides of my ears—the outsides.  They hurt.  They wake me up.  So that’s one issue. Initially I watched those My Pillow commercials with some curiosity, but once I learned that what’s inside them has nothing to do with feathers, I’m not buying one, even if I can get a second one free by simply paying for shipping and handling.

Years ago, when Bill and I first married, I had the coldest feet in the world—summer and winter.  Then I reached a certain age.  My feet warmed up and so did everything else.  Over night, covers went on covers came off.  By morning, I would be wrapped up like a burrito and Bill would be … well … let’s not go there. The solution to the cover dilemma and one which preserved our marital harmony was having twin duvets on our bed.  Bill has his covers, I have mine, and never the twain shall meet.  But my feet, which were once perpetually cold, are now perpetually warm.  We keep a fan running in our bedroom—summer and winter.  All I have to do to keep my feet cool is to stick them out into the open at the far end of my private duvet.

But now I’m dealing with the problem of cooling off the other end.  The term “hot head” comes to mind.  If I wake up overnight, ears hurting or not, in order to fall back asleep, I need to have a cool pillow readily at hand.  With the fan running, any pillow not actively in use is, by definition, a cool pillow. And so I keep my side of the bed stocked with a random supply of down pillows—big ones, little ones, fluffy ones, not so fluffy ones.  I maybe don’t have quite as many pillows as Princess Winnifred had mattresses, but close. When it’s time for me to go back to sleep, I make a selection from my vast supply of pre-cooled pillows, and magically it’s night-night time.

My mother, who slept with one pillow only, would be appalled at such wastefulness, but you know what?  I have it on good authority that writers are allowed to be eccentric.  They’re ENCOURAGED to be eccentric.  If having my side of the bed buried under a collection of pillows is as bad as it gets, so be it.

You could say that Princess Winnifred and J.A. Jance are two peas in a pod, as it were.

Believe me, it could be a whole lot worse.