A crying sham

PHOTO: Corey Taratuta, Flickr CC
Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

I’d like to talk to you about estate planning. Nobody likes talking about death. It means we might actually do it ourselves. But it’s important to make plans for when we’re gone.

My wife and I have already done this. We’ve considered several contingencies. For example, should I die before her, she will likely double the number of frilly pillow shams, throws and redundant linens placed on our bed. 

Should she predecease me, I fully intend to burn all such items in the driveway.

She says I won’t do it. She says I’ll be too sad. And it’s true, I would cry and cry. If anyone saw me I’d wipe my eyes on my shirt sleeve and blame it all on the pillow smoke.

Google searches for pillow shams reveal that millions don’t know whether or not it’s OK to sleep on them. Right now, somewhere in the western world, a houseguest stares at a bed in the spare room of a distant relative. They wonder whether that’s a frilly pillow, or a pillow frill.

Now, I cannot plead ignorance. I know what pillow shams and throw pillows are for. Even I cannot deny that they can really pull a room together with a delightful pop of color. What I cannot abide, however, is the daily futility of taking them on and off the bed.

After all, life is just each of us trying to believe that what we do actually matters for as long as possible. Pillow shams strip away the facade. We squeeze the pillows into the shams right after we squeeze ourselves into a pair of work pants. What’s the difference? Why bother?

There’s a class dynamic. If Howard Zinn had written about interior design he would have been all over this.

See, our current bed set features large square pillows that serve as a backstop for the cavalcade of other pillows. They’re very nice and I am never to press my greasy head against them.

Each night, after peeling back the pillow shams and throws, we also remove the big square pillows and put them in the closet. We then bring out two distinctly proletarian pillows that we call huggy pillows. I call them the night shift.

“Huggy pillow” might sound nice, but I assure you that these are the pillows that catch the most sweat and drool. They are the Morlocks to HG Wells’ Eloi. And each morning we cast them down into the dark recess of the closet. Periodically the huggy pillows are laundered, a fleeting moment of joy before I use mine to determine whether or not I have bad breath.

All this so that the day pillows can sit on the bed matching the paint sample we picked out at the store long ago.

The only people who see any of these fancy pillows are us, three boys who don’t care, and a small black and white dog literally incapable of perceiving color.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. Since our boys could walk they’ve knocked the living room throw pillows to the floor, often for no reason at all. The dog does the same thing. I’m not sure if it’s a silent protest or a conscious effort to drive my wife insane. It’s working. Maybe that’s why she wants more pillows?

It’s an endless loop.

The important thing is that we’re prepared for all contingencies. You never know what life is going to hand you, but it’s always good to have a soft pillow to land on.

Within reason

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. It is based on a monologue from the Feb. 9, 2019 Great Northern Radio Show.


  1. I’m female and the pillow tsunami bugs me too. There’s no room on the beds or the sofas for humans or in some cases pets to relax. All I want is one comfy, reasonably priced, washable pillow that stays sleepworthy for longer than a few months.

    • I can’t believe you got me doing this. Cannot believe I am about to say this. But I been using my My Pillow for years now. Years – and its washable and dryer safe. Good Lord! Hope ya’ll are happy now. Mike Lindell’s cool, though.

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