Pillow Talk

I have mentioned before that my mama keeps a beautiful home. In fact, her idea of heaven on earth would be to have four or five days of blissful alone time so that she could dust every single picture frame, clean vast expanses of baseboards and wash each window with her homemade glass-cleaning solution (wiping only with newspaper, girls. only with newspaper. paper towels leave pesky streaks). And then, for kicks, she would launder all her table linens, hang them up to dry, and press them to perfection with a red-hot Oreck iron.

You see, housekeeping, for Mama, isn’t so much a chore as a calling, and she does it better than anyone else I know. 

If there’s any crack at all in my mama’s firm housekeeping foundation, it’s that she favors form over function. It’s not a big deal, really – it’s simply a result of her desire for everything to look pretty. She doesn’t like unsightly objects to disturb her decorative flow, and that is why she once placed a large hall tree in front of the air conditioner thermostat in my childhood home.

Now granted, the hall tree looked lovely, but there was absolutely no way to make a middle-of-the-night trip to the bathroom without slamming a substantial portion of my thigh against it. Once I limped back to my bedroom and gingerly crawled into bed, however, at least I could sleep with the assurance that Mama’s aesthetic sensibilities were preserved by keeping that unsightly thermostat out of sight. And besides, that deep purple thigh-welt was bound to fade with time. 

When Mama and Daddy moved to another house about a year and a half ago, my sister and I made it our mission to give Mama more function, even if that meant sacrificing a bit of her beloved decorative form. I spent several weeks in my hometown before the big move, cleaning out closets, setting up for the mother of all garage sales, and trying to help Mama sort through over forty years of accumulated stuff.

“At the new house,” I would say, “you can streamline.”

“At the new house,” I would say, “you can focus more on function.”

But Mama just doesn’t have it in her. She would cover up the pipes on the back of a commode if Daddy would let her. Seriously. She’d go pick out some floral fabric, consult with a seamstress, and then pay somebody to make pipe cozies. She absolutely would.

And trying to convince her that it’s perfectly fine for a thermostat to be visible is like trying to teach a cat to bark. It goes against the natural order of the universe. 

At least now, in the new house, the massive book cabinet that’s covering the thermostat is out of the line of traffic. You don’t have to worry about taking out a chunk of your shin while trying to walk around it, but you do have to find a flashlight and then shine it behind the bookcase in order to read the thermostat settings. This process drives Daddy to complete distraction but leaves Mama sighing with contentment, as does the sage green velour throw that’s artfully draped across an inoperable wall heater in their den. 

This past weekend D. was helping me make up the bed at Mama and Daddy’s house, something he hasn’t done very often because the intricacy of Mama’s bed-making system can be a little intimidating. All things considered, he was doing pretty well; after almost ten years of marriage to me, he understands that the process is far more elaborate than pulling a bedspread over some pillows. He realizes that on my mama’s side of the family, making up the bed means that it’s time to put on your protective goggles and get ready to do some hard labor. It’s not for the faint of heart.

As we were working on pulling up layer-o-cover #4, Mama swooped into the room and picked up the pillows we’d slept on the night before. I didn’t think a thing of it because I know the routine, but D. paused for just a second and said, “Hey. Your mama just took all the pillows. What’s she doing with them?” 

“Putting them in the closet,” I said. 

“Putting them in the closet? Why?” he asked. 

“Because she doesn’t think they’re pretty enough to be on the bed.” 

D. could not quit laughing. Even when he was getting into the shower several minutes later, I could hear him chuckling across the hall. 

Several years ago my friend Daphne’s husband coined the phrase Stunt PillowsTM to refer to the purely decorative pillows, the ones that are often the very essence of form over function. They look great, for sure – but don’t you even think about using them for something as mundane as sleeping. That would never, ever do. 

With that in mind, please examine the following three pictures:




Based on the photographic evidence, I feel it is appropriate – and dare I say, necessary – to christen my mama’s house as The Stunt Pillow PalaceTM of America. 

If you’d like to take a tour, I can probably arrange it. I know she’d be delighted to show you how she concealed an unused electrical outlet in her kitchen by hanging a picture in front of it.

But don’t you even think about stretching out on one of her beds.

Not unless you make a trip to the Functional Pillow Closet first.

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  1. Stunning…….there is truly nothing like a bedroom in the South!

  2. Write all you wish, Sister, but that Stunt Pillow Gene is DOMINANT in our family. It’s called Biological Inheritance. We can’t help it.

    P.S. I’ll guarantee you that she remade the Pink Pillow Bed after y’all left. :)

  3. Sooo funny, BooMama! I’ve no decorating gene whatsoever. Does your mama do housecalls? I’ll take form, function, anything other than 4-guys-live-here-and-I’m-outnumbered decor!

  4. Stunt pillows is a hoot.

    I love the first photo- my colors!

    My grandmother wouldn’t let you lay down on the couch or sit on the bed. Sofas were for sitting and beds for laying. :>)

  5. I think your Mama and my Alabama grandmother are the same person. We must be related. There is nothing on this planet that sings my Southern Gram’s name as much as a picture perfect bed, complete with starched sheets and pillowcases, a perfectly aligned bed spread, some sort of wall covering over the headboard and, my oh my, a whole SLEW of Stunt Pillows–the shams, the “pretty print pillowcases”, the square European pillows set Just So, the neck roll placed ten times until it looks just right… it was rough being a little California girl who just threw the bedspread up and tossed the pillows on the bed. I think I nearly gave her a heart attack on a number of occasions. It took my Gram, my mama and I h.o.u.r.s in Bed, Bath and Beyond when we visited last fall, waiting for her to make up her mind about the new bed set she was going to purchase. Then, it took at least two days for her to get up the energy to actually put the bed together. Afterward, she stood back and admired her new masterpiece.

    But, here is the question… does your Mama use *feather pillows*? Because in the homes of my Alabama family, feather pillows are all that will do. Even if some of us cannot stand to have our heads fall, POOF, down to the mattress when we lay them down, or do not like the feel of feathers poking us in our sleep, and no matter how many times we’ve asked… feather pillows are all that will do. After all, they look better. :smile:

  6. I come from a long line of stunt pillow users and I have to say that I have inherited the gene. In fact, did you know that you can make your stunt pillows even more fetching by stuffing any unfilled space with polyfill from the craft store? Oh yes, you can.

  7. Remind me to NEVER have a sleepover with you at your parents house. I would feel unworthy to make the bed, let alone sleep on it the night before…

    Oh, and if you ever make it to my place, I have all the recessive genes that combat your mother’s dominant ones. You’ll be safe at my house. That is if you don’t mind using a Buzz Lightyear pillow case with a floral spread. And if it does offend, let me know so that I can order enough wine for you so that you won’t be able to tell the difference.

  8. Oh my word. She would be appalled, APPALLED, I tell you, if she were to visit me. I hang my head in shame and vow to get my act together.

  9. Your mother sounds adorable, BooMama! I am a new reader and know each time I open up your blog, I will be laughing until tears pour from my eyes! :) Thank you for the comedic relief every day!

  10. SOOOO Funny!!!!

  11. Pipe cozies, stunt pillows….you just have a way with words boomama. Thanks for sharing it with the rest of us.

  12. I am your mothers long-lost daughter. I used to live a stunt pillow filled life. However, the stunt-pillow way of life is much more difficult to maintain with a spouse and a three year old who don’t understand the importance of stunt pillowing. Sigh.

    My dream is to live in a model home, loaded with stunt pillows and plastic food.

  13. I need your mother to come and visit. In fact I need your mother to come and organise my house. Now would be good.

  14. We have stunt towels in both bathrooms, and even Caiden know he better not even THINK about touching them.

    That said, the last picture made me laugh–the stunt pillows are bigger than the headboard. I love it. Your mama is one classy lady!

  15. ROTFL…my husband would swear up and down that you have to be my daughter. Except he knows our house doesn’t look exactly that.

    Your Mama sounds just wonderful.

    I posted on my blog today that “guys don’t get that girls need pretty”!

  16. Well, no, I wouldn’t ever invite your mama over to my house. My pillows would cringe with embarrassment, and so would I.

    I love the “stunt pillow” phrase.

  17. I.love.your.Mama.

    I’m quite sure she gave me away at birth and my mama and daddy have been lying to me forever.

    Any true Southern lady knows newspaper and vinegar is the only way to clean a window, inside and out. It’s the acid, don’t you know.

    You’ve outdone even your own self, BM. I’m literally rolling on the floor here. My hwole house is stunt everything.

    (I was just about to read this and leave a comment an hour ago when Rob screeched, “Help! Cameron’s smearing peanut butter and jelly on the TV screen!” Grabbed my newspaper and vinegar and rescued him.)

  18. So funny. My husband fails to recognize the importance of pillow fluffing using a method we fondly call the “Country Club Pillow Chop” wherein you fluff the pillows (down, of course), place them carefully in their designated spot, and apply a karate chop on the top of the pillow right in the middle. Sooo klassy!

  19. Oh, I would pay big money to have your mama visit me. Someone needs to enjoy washing the baseboards, because I don’t. And newspapers on the windows? I had never heard of that.


  21. Rocks in my Dryer says:

    Absolutely gorgeous. A woman who knows how to work a throw pillow is a fine woman, indeed.

  22. Haha! Family is so fun to make fun of! My mom reads my blog, but I’m still gonna make fun of her getting lost in my house for the full week she stayed here!

  23. I am Ashleigh’s mom (comment #5).I just talked to her on the phone and she told me I *had* to read your recent post. Oh my! Truly, it does sound so familiar. : ) My mother is a little itty-bitty woman living in a sprawling home, in a quaint Alabama town. Her sister lives just one street over and together they are a hoot! They both have beds decorated very similar to your mother’s. Reading the posts about your mama makes me miss mine even more. : )

  24. LOL as the daughter in law of a “stunt pillow” queen, I love this post! So true! Although MIL would never be caught with pipe cozies (she’d find a way to hide them…if it meant remodeling the bathroom to do so). ;)

  25. Well, we did not have stunt pillows but we always had stunt towels in the bathroom- my mother would tell me “those towels are for show, not blow”! Love your stories!

  26. Phyllis R. says:

    First of all, those beds are gorgeous. I especially love the finery that is photo #1. Your mother and my mother are SO, SO related. Growing up, we had to have extra furniture (lovely, of course) for the sole purpose of holding the “Stunt Pillows” at night. And we also had the “Stunt Towels”, only they were called “Display Towels”. I once heard my husband and one of his pal talking about the Hands-Off-Hand-Towels in their guest bathrooms. The friend said, “I told Susan that IF she wanted me to leave it alone, she would have to have one of them letter-dealies (a MONOGRAM) put on it with a big ole’ “D” (for “Display Only”) so I would know which one I couldn’t touch.” : )

  27. Wow. I didn’t know people lived like that. I’m in awe.

  28. I don’t want to burst any bubbles, and washing the windows with newspaper isn’t going to hurt anything, but my dad was a master printer, and according to him, the original reason people cleaned windows with newspaper is that the ink worked with the vinegar, actually producing cleaner windows. The ink in newspapers is different now (more environmentally friendly, I’d imagine), and is no more effective than paper towels.

  29. I COMPLETELY “get” the whole pillow thing!! LOL! I really laughed at this post but I think it’s mostly because I am SO much like your mother! LOL!

    Mrs. U- who, yes, will remove all pillows from the “Pillow Palace” before sleeping on functional pillows. HA!

  30. Not to mention that she also seems to have an affection for lovely 4 poster beds. Your mother’s rooms are beautiful and I love Daphne’s husband expression!

  31. BooMama, I am Diane’s sister..your blog about your mom’s clean house is hysterical!!! I came on to leave a message for Sister…I wanted to thank her for her sweet comments and well-wishes… I appreciate the warm welcome everyone has given me… thanks so much..and happy blogging…..

  32. Hmph! This is humorous fodder?? All our beds have ‘stunt pillows’ and OF COURSE the SLEEPING PILLOWS go in the CLOSET!! You can’t let them lie under the comforter as they cause a VERY unsightly bump and then the stunt pillows don’t lie correctly. And of course the sleeping pillows can’t SHOW during the day!! As if!! Please! Sleeping pillows get thin and wrinkled and it would never do to show a sleeping pillow on a made bed. No sir. And someone up above was quite correct…stuffing the corners of the shams with polyfill from the craft store fills them out very nicely!! Of course, this is after stuffing them with specific pillows marketed as ‘sham pillows’. Sham pillows can be found at any reputable bed/linen store. Neckrolls, square pillows, etc., all have their place as well. I THRIVE on pretty bedrooms. :o)

    P.S. I did not grow up with stunt pillows. In fact, my mother was the only one to have shams in her room and she, dare I reveal this horrid secret….she, well, she made the bed with the SLEEPING PILLOWS on top of it and merely LAY the EMPTY sham on top of them, trying to make it look as if the sham was truly stuffed with pillows. Don’t tell your mother, Boomama…it would cause great stress and anxiety to her. So anyway, I’m not certain this trait is hereditary. But if so I sure hope my daughters get it. I’m doing my part right now, though, to indoctrinate into them the importance of stunt pillows and hiding away the shameful sleeping pillows.

  33. Yikes! So sorry for the long comment. I just love my stunt pillows and all…

  34. I think your mama sounds like an absolutely adorable woman. However, She would die if she came to my house. My 3 yr old had an accident 1 week ago in my bed and I have yet to put the old sheets and comforter back on. So right now I have chocolate microsuede pillows with a blue and white bed set. LOL I’m also good to make my bed some days. It’s allowed right? I mean I do have a 3 and 1 year old.

    Just wanted to add, I am a new blogger and have been reading your blog for about a week or so now and I just wanna say I love it!

  35. That is sooo funny! She’s really made an art out of it, hasn’t she? I’m going to be checking out other people’s houses now to see how good they are at this art!

  36. Elizabeth says:

    Your mama is an artiste!

  37. “Stunt Pillows” – I love it!! Reminds me of Bree on Desperate Housewives. I could absolutely see her face through your entire blog asI was reading it. And I must admit, my own stunts are, well, unfortunately, retired now in my closet for better days. (Hence the name of my own blog.) But I do have stunt towels! In my guest bathroom. Only in the guest bathroom.

  38. She’s lived there a year and a half and the bedrooms look like that? I’ve lived in my house three years and not ONE room is “put together”. Matching curtains, pillows, bed set…oh, the hopelessness of it all!

  39. DayspringDawning says:

    Ha! I was laughing out loud on this one. My husband is from PA and the first time we stayed overnight at my parent’s he was totally taken back by the fact that we had to remove, at the minimum, 6 pillows from the bed before we could actually sleep. AND the pillows we slept on, were actually kept under the bed! He just could not understand the concept. After 7 years of marriage, he now realizes my “need” for things to “look pretty” even if they serve no purpose whatsoever. Though we both hate clutter so knicknack are minimum…oh, but not pillows! Nuh,uh. :)

  40. I’m all for function, but still would like it to look nice.

    I would never hide a thermostat.

  41. Oh, if your mama could just come to my house and work her magic.

  42. The beds are beautiful. We don’t really believe in making beds around here. If, on the rare chance that I do, the kids and husband look at me like that world has come off of it’s axis.

  43. Hilarious! My husband often wonders why we have so many pillows we’re not allowed to sleep on!

  44. I somewhat relate, but after getting married 25 years ago and three kids later…I’m just happy to have a bed to sleep in…and of course it is regularly made every 3 or 4 days!

  45. This is so hilarious. I want my bedroom to look like that. #1 is fantastic. I want a new bedroom set, but it seems a waste of money since our room holds all the “don’t know what to do with, but need to keep” things from our move (Dec, 1). I hope to have at least that figured out by the end of February.

    I think your Mama must be a hoot to be around. I would love her home. I do insist on made beds here. I’m not too fussy on the how, but they must look decent. I would prefer my way, but not everyone thinks all the steps are necessary. I have been known to lay the sham across the pillows if I remade the bed in the evening. Otherwise they pillow – yes our sleeping pillows – goes in the sham. My husband is a sweety and has no problem with them and even takes them off and folds the covers down if he gets to the bedroom before in the evening.

  46. Oh my goodness, I just went back and looked at the pictures and even though I don’t like the pillows on the third bed, I have the same comforter. I didn’t notice at first because the top is folded down. What good taste your Mama has!!

  47. First of all, because of firewalls, your blog is one of the only ones I can visit while at school. What would I have done if you hadn’t changed from blogger?

    Secondly, you act like stunt pillows are bad. I do keep my useable pillows carefully under the disguise of the stunt pillows. Even on the girls beds. Can’t see them–no way.

    The apt is driving me crazy b/c it’s furnished. With things you would find in a hotel. And the old fashioned bedspread that you tuck under the used pillows to cover them up. Blech. It’s not even worth making the bed b/c it still looks so bad.

  48. Your mama and my mama-in-law. They could be dangerous together. My MIL has stunt pillows (also sticks the sleeping ones in the closet) stunt dishes (all over the house), stunt closets (for the sundry stunt stuff like pillows), stunt chairs (just try sitting in one and see)… it could be quite a show.

    I love it!

  49. If she could only bottle and sell that gene, she could make a fortune! I have not even one little ounce of that gene. Pulling the covers up is the closest I get to making a bed. I wish I has more of that ability. Blessings!

  50. Well, it looks like she’s done some shopping at Stein Marts, because her beds are beautimous! And love the stunt pillow phrase….speaking of stunt towels, there was a friend who cleaned the bathroom sparkly clean for guests, DARED her kids to go in, and just in case they did, she put a note on the stunt towels saying “DO NOT USE THESE”…..and you know where this is going….forgot to take off the little note!!!! oops….;-)

  51. Okay I’ve been thinking some more about this post…(yes I need help, thank you)…and I take issue with the term ‘stunt pillow’. It’s not accurate! Stunt people do the HARD work…the actors do the ‘stand around and look beautiful’ work… SO, I believe it’s the SLEEPING/FUNCTIONAL pillows that are the true stunt pillows, and the decorative pillows are the celebrity pillows. The decorative pillows are the ones ‘on camera’ and given ‘face time’ while the sleeping pillows are UNSEEN, and do all the work. Maybe, technically, the decorative pillows are PILLOW DOUBLES. Don’t actors also use ‘body doubles’?? Maybe, technically, I am crazy. :o)

  52. Perfect, just perfect and too wonderful for words :)

  53. your Mama sounds like me!! Only, I would never cover up my thermostat because then I wouldn’t be able to stand in front of it and complain loudly to my dear warm-blooded husband about how cold our house is (60 to 65 degrees) because Mr. Man works outside all day and thus cannot tell that the rest of us are blue and chattering while he is sweating.

    I, too, have a Functional Pillow Box (that is covered with a sarong to hide the banged edges that are “shabby chic”) and hear about the blanket layers as I lay in bed shivering and Mr. Man lays on top of the covers sweating (again, outside 15 hours a day while I waitress in a nice climate controlled restaurant)

    I once saw a sign that fits me to the T:

    I am CDO> For those of you that don’t know what this is: it is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, alphabetized as it should be!!!

    Tell Mama that she has a soulmate in Smalltown, Ohio.

  54. Oh that is too funny! I would be interested in seeing a picture of that outlet as I have 3 in my kitchen that drive me crazy!!!!
    I’m new to this bloggy world, but I have been reading your posts for a while now. It’s out….I was a “lurker”!
    Please visit me at Kindred Haven sometime. Nice to meet you!

  55. Oh yeah, I guess it would help if you had my address, huh. (rolling my eyes)

  56. Oh my word. Sorry, this is getting old, I know. YOU probably already know this, but leave out the www. BIG sigh…..

  57. We spent summers back at the Grandparents house in Memphis. TO her last day at that house (she was in her 80’s) Grandma hung her lauhndry )for that fresh scent) and ironed/folded her sheets. Her entire bedroom was in lace, lilac and ruffles. I never understood how to make a bed until I learned at her feet.

    Good times. Good times :)

  58. Could I just rub Mama’s hand to gain some of her orderliness and sense of style? Seriously! I wish I could be that way … I do, it is just soooo far from anything that I have ever been able to accomplish that I think it would take a BooMama’s Mama Miracle to make it happen!

  59. I saw this blog entry. I felt ashamed of my lack of stunt pillows. Then as I dropped by the store on the way to the Dr’s office, I realized I didn’t bring anything to read (I don’t like to touch magazines in a pediatric waiting room). In the checkout line I saw the “Southen Living – Room-by-Room Makeovers” magazine. It was priced at $9.99. I don’t spend that kind of money on magazines – but I did yesterday. I’m blaming it on your blog.

  60. I am just curious if you can get your mom to come to my house to work on the asthetics of a 1300 square foot home with four children and a husband (need I say more?)? I would put her up in our room, it’s a more comfortable bed than the couch and I would gladly sleep on the floor in the living room to have my house look like that!!! :) Love it!!! I will have to share a post on my mother-in-law…who craves packratting to the point I bought my own pillows to use at her house (her’s were at least 25 years old…*sigh*)

  61. I would LOVE to see a tour of your mama’s house! Especially how she beautifies the eye-sores. I love it!

  62. Oh my, that first room is mine! I have the exact same comforter, and I didn’t know there were curtains to match it!! Hmmm…I’m going to have to find those curtains!

  63. Boomama,
    Your blog is so much fun. I knew just what your Mama meant with the pillows! I didn’t know anyone put the ones they really use in a closet though. I think my hubby would be sure I’d lost it if I did but it’s such a great idea.
    Now, you make me want to go and buy some JEANS!!!!!
    I’m with you on the price thing!