When I was 13, my granny stuffed pillows with farm-raised goose down for my little sister, Ava, and me. I had never before—nor have I since—slept on something so heavenly. They were fit for princesses, and we named them “the fat pillows.”
Ava, who was approaching 2 years old at the time, was just making the transition from a baby bed to one of the matching white iron twin beds in the room we shared. Even though I was officially a teenager and beginning to focus more on basketball and my friends, Ava was my little doll.
We played house and dress-up in our room. At night I’d tuck her in with her fat pillow, give her a kiss, or perhaps a zerbert—a loving wet raspberry—and tell her how much I loved her. When morning came, I dolled her up in pretty clothes and brushed her long black hair before I made her breakfast. It was like having a look-alike living doll.
I went away to college at 17 and took my fat pillow with me. On weekends home, Ava and I would stay up talking way into the night; we missed each other so much! She’d tell me what it was like to go to kindergarten, and I’d tell her what it was like to go to college.
Before we went to sleep, I’d always ask if she’d let me sleep on her fat pillow since mine was three hours away at school. She always gave me the same, firm answer: “No!” I slept on a lumpy pillow and treasured those visits anyway.
Years passed, and before we knew it, Ava was telling me about junior high while I told her what it was like to get married. At some point, my fat pillow disappeared during one of my many moves. To this day, its fate remains unknown.
Rest in peace, fat pillow.
When I turned 30, I had a baby and Ava went off to college—with her fat pillow. On visits home with my husband and infant son, I’d open the door to the empty room Ava and I once shared and miss her even more. Unlike me, though, she kept track of her fat pillow through the years, miles and moves.
Today, Ava and I are both grown women with families of our own. I’m no longer the older, cooler big sister. I’m Aunt Bebe, relegated to sleeping on the dreaded sofa bed when I visit. I love seeing what a wonderful mother Ava is to her girls. Watching her with them takes me back to those special times in our room growing up.
On my last visit, Ava brushed the girls’ long hair and got them into their Frozen nightgowns. Then they snuggled up for goodnight hugs, kisses, and zerberts. Afterward, I’d settled into my sofa bed in the dark house when I felt a kiss on my forehead. “Here’s the fat pillow. You can have it if you want it,” she said. And I did. I closed my eyes, and the fat pillow seemed to whisper all the sweetest dreams of my childhood in my ear.