Did I Say That? Keep calm and stack the pillows

While I was watching Darkest Hour, the celebrated film about Winston Churchill, one scene absolutely captivated me. It wasn’t the scene where he delivers the famous Academy Award-winning “We shall fight on the beaches” address to Parliament. Or the scene where King George VI visits him in his bedroom late one night to offer support.

It was the scene when Baroness Clementine Ogilvy Spencer-Churchill (that’s more than a mouthful of a name) was removing a collection of decorative pillows from the bed, and I thought, “Lordy, even Winston Churchill had to deal with throw pillows!”

The Luftwaffe was threatening to attack the U.K. and the British army was surrounded at Dunkirk, but that didn’t stop the prime minister’s wife from attending to her “scatter cushions,” which they’re called on the other side of the pond.

Did Pope Leo the Great fluff up the throw pillows at his Vatican apartment when Attila the Hun and the Mongol hordes were at the gates of Rome? Did Marie Antoinette cling to her throw pillows when the French revolutionaries were about to drag her off to prison? Why do people turn to throw pillows in a crisis? Did Hillary Clinton throw throw pillows at Bill Clinton over Monica Lewinsky? And just how many pillows were thrown over Stormy Daniels? (Of course, throw pillows aren’t for throwing, although they serve the purpose well during emotional upheavals, and they’re a wiser choice than, say, plates or knives.)

Watching Darkest Hour made me realize throw pillows give us strength in times of crisis. They calm us during the storm, and organizing them can be like feng shui in a Bed Bath & Beyond kind of way. So buy more throw pillows for your mental health, I say.

Does Oprah display pillows in her dressing room? Does Vladimir Putin arrange them on his bed or does the KGB? And what about Kim Jong-un? Will his attendant be executed if the pillows aren’t organized just so?

My wife is extremely particular about where pillows are placed, and if it’s not done according to her exacting specifications, she’ll give us a stern lecture.

Even though Sandy, who is English, doesn’t have as many names as Baroness Clementine Ogilvy Spencer-Churchill, I’m convinced she has more throw pillows, probably because she wants to move up in society. In Britain, a person’s social status is determined by pillow ownership. There are land barons, and there are pillow barons.

The royal family has thousands of throw pillows … and even more candlesticks. When our family acquires a minimum of 2,000 pillows, I’ll be knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, just like Sir Elton John and Sir Mick Jagger, even though I’m Italian.

My wife and daughters are obsessed with decorative pillows. To them, there’s no better form of relaxation than strolling through HomeGoods to examine the inventory. And at the end of a stressful day, I’ll often hug a pillow or punch the stuffing out of it to regain my composure.

Our dog shares these tendencies and regularly jumps onto the bed, pounces on the pile of pillows and burrows her wet dog nose in them. Then she loses canine self-control and pushes them all over the room. Throw pillows apparently bring out the wolf in her.

However, there’s an unwritten rule in our home: NEVER put your head on a throw pillow, especially if your hair is greasy, although our dog never observes the rules and usually puts her butt on them. Dogs clearly lack the refinement of Baroness Clementine Ogilvy Spencer-Churchill … unless they’re cultured British dogs like the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

A few months ago, I succumbed to temptation and bought a pillow I liked, but it met with immediate disapproval, and my family insisted I had to return it. Instead of an image of Big Ben or Westminster Abbey, it had a moose on it. Two moose actually.

“Get rid of that pillow!” they yelled. “It’s sooo tacky!”

I suppose Lady Churchill would never have permitted a throw pillow with a moose on it because there’s an unwritten code of British decorum: Under penalty of torture in the Tower of London, you must never display throw pillows with woodland creatures … unless they’re engaged in a fox hunt. I learned that from watching Downton Abbey.

Joe Pisani can be reached at [email protected]

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