Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Feather Beds

There’s nothing like sleeping in a freezing room snuggled under a feather bed. When I was a child visiting my grandparents and great-grandparents on my mother’s side in Hallein and Oberalm, Austria, respectively, it was cold, especially in Winter. Their apartments were made of granite quarried from the Alps and heated by wood-burning stoves. Each apartment had only one stove and those were in the kitchens which doubled as the communal living space. Bedrooms were not heated and only occupied at night.

At bedtime, you’d rush into the bedroom, rush into your jammies and rush under the thick, poofy feather bed. The windows would be open because you expelled poison gases as you slept so airing out the room was necessary for your health. The air turned your nose, forehead and cheeks red if you dared poke your head out from under the covers. There was no getting out of bed and fooling around. It was just too damn cold. I’ve never slept so well as I did in those freezing chambers.

In the morning, you flung back the heavy covers, slipped your feet into felted slippers and ran, hell bent, to the outhouse that hung off of the side of the building on the second story. Then, just as quickly, you ran into the kitchen for a wave of warmth and some scalded milk. You might need to pluck a tiny feather that had escaped its casing from your hair.

I’ve tried using down comforters in our heated homes and they were always too hot to sleep under. Even with the thermometer turned way down like we have it, sometimes set at 62 degrees, it’s not the same if the windows aren’t open. And I’m not keeping the windows open at night and invite murders to come kill me while I’m dreaming.  

My favorite pillow was an Army issued down pillow, made of blue and white striped Army duck fabric. That pillow went everywhere with me all the way through college. It was perfect: always stayed the right temperature - never getting warm because as you all know, a pillow should stay cool on your face - and it squished into any form needed to get comfortable. I finally had to get rid of it because it just stank.

I must have a thing for feathers. I see them everywhere. I’m sure they are everywhere for you, too, but do you notice them? Dove or pigeon feathers are always in my path around my neighborhood. I collect them and tuck them into books and notepads. I think the predatory birds we have in the area are feasting on the pigeons. “Squab.” I have a few red-tailed hawk feathers that would make great quill pens if I could bring myself to use them in such a dishonorable manner. Instead, I keep them in a pen holder near my ink pots and pretend.

Last Friday was my birthday and my husband gave me a card with a feather in it (not because he knows I have a feather fetish but because I still tickle his fancy.)


  1. Feathers fascinate me too though I never collected them. After reading your post I feel I should have collected them. :)

  2. I have fond memories of those down comforters too. A great aunt and uncle on my father's side in upstate New York had one. It was the most wonderful thing!
    I have a thing for feathers as well. Like you, I do collect them.
    There was one night when I was at my old job. It wasn't long after my father died. I was missing him. I saw a glistening white feather slowly drop in front of me. It wasn't one I could collect, though. It was purely spiritual. It disappeared after a moment. I knew my dad was checking in on me.

  3. happy belated birthday..

    share today.