I was ten when she gave it to me.
Mrs. Staples was a long time friend and neighbor to my maternal grandmother. On this particular occasion, Mrs. Staples and Granny had driven up from rural North Carolina to stay with us and attend a craft show. In appreciation for my mother’s hospitality, and for me sleeping on the sofa, Mrs. Staples left behind surprise gifts: a handmade Kleenex box cover for my mother and a peanut-shaped pink and blue flannel pillow for me.
While it was kind gesture, I confess that my decade-old ungrateful self would have been much more excited about the gift if it been a stylish new outfit for my Barbie doll. I tossed the pillow in my doll crib with my other neglected stuffed animals.
I am not sure how much time had passed or even how I made the marvelous discovery: the peanut pillow fit perfectly under my curled-up arm when I laid on my side. It immediately replaced my one-eyed, fuzz-worn teddy bear as my sleeping companion.
From that point on, my peanut pillow accompanied me on sleepovers, slumber parties and Girl Scout camping trips. It went on family road trips and was my familiar, offering security each time we moved. As a young adult, it was tucked safely in my sleeping bag on duty nights at the volunteer fire department. I clung tight to it when I moved out of my parents’ house and into my own apartment.
When I got married, my new husband teased me about my pillow; once he even thought it would be funny to hide. it. One night, early in our marriage, I woke up to find my pillow missing. I turned on the lamp to see if it had fallen off the bed and searched under the bedcovers. And then I saw it: tucked under the arm of my husband. I snatched it out of his arms, startling him awake. I glared at him and told him: this is MY pillow. I was willing to share everything but my peanut pillow.
My pillow even went on vacation with me, well…up until the incident in Orlando when I was in my late 20s. After a day of playing tourist, I discovered the hotel housekeeping staff had carelessly swooped up my pillow when they changed the bed linens. Not happy, I marched down to the front desk; I was told I would need to talk with the housekeeping manager in the morning. I didn’t sleep well; I had nightmares of my fragile pillow getting tossed in the commercial washer and disintegrating. When morning arrived, I hurried down to housekeeping. After I explained the situation to the manager, she offered to get my address and mail it to me when they found it. I thanked her, but told her I would wait while the staff looked through mountains of linens. Tears of relief spilled down my face when it was finally found. I was so thankful it had not met its tragic end in the spin cycle!
Over the decades, my trusted peanut pillow has been privy to whispered longings, hopes and dreams. It caught my tears of disappointment during my years of infertility and absorbed the flood from my gut-wrenching sobs when my marriage ended. It has heard every one of my bedside prayers. I have literally clung to it through the different seasons of my life.
Now almost a half-century old, my poor pillow has seen better days. It no longer retains its peanut shape…it is pretty much just an oblong lump. It has long been wrapped securely inside a pillowcase within another pillowcase. And I am not ashamed to say it: I still sleep with it!
This morning I woke up before dawn. Reluctant to get out of bed, I rolled on my side and pulled my pillow close. My pillow did its thing, because the next time I opened my eyes, the sun was streaming through the blinds. Not in a hurry to get out of bed, I tucked my pillow under my arm and began to think about how much comfort I have gotten from this ol’ peanut pillow.
My thoughts drifted to Mrs. Staples.
As an adult, I appreciate the gift of time she invested in a sewing pieces of fabric into an odd-shaped pillow. I treasure the love and thoughtfulness she had for a clueless kid who didn’t value a homemade surprise gift. And I am pretty certain Mrs. Staples had no idea that the kid would still be holding her gift tight each night…50 years later.
Thank you, Mrs. Staples. You have no idea what your gift means to me.
Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. ~ Philippians 1:3