I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I have a shoddy neck. And back. And shoulders. Basically the whole spine region is sort of borked. Partly this is a genetic thing: my mother has many of the same problems I do. Injury has exacerbated them. For instance: I spent the last few years of high school carrying a heavy bag for prolonged periods of time. By heavy, I mean I once weighed it on a good day and it hit ten kilos. And by prolonged periods of time, I mean I walked an average of eight kilometers every school week for three years between my house, school and various train stations while lugging it around. It wasn’t a backpack, either: it was shaped like a gym bag. There was literally no other way to carry it than on one shoulder, usually my right. The practical upshot of this is that nearly ten years later, my shoulders make a sound like marbles grinding together if I so much as roll them. Other people can hear this noise if they stand near me. Sometimes they can hear it from across the room, if there’s no music playing. Then there was the time I slipped while working as a waitress, landed square on my hip and wrenched my whole back out for a week and a half. Ever since then, I’ll sometimes feel as though my hip has popped out of the socket, which means I suddenly start limping while my back twists. It always goes away after ten minutes or so, but it’s a little disconcerting when it happens. Every couple of days, I get vile tension headaches and a pounding pain over my left eye that feels like someone’s using a nailgun on me. I once kronked my neck so badly that I spent three days in a stupor, having been prescribed a cocktail of codeine, Panadine Forte and valium, during which time I could barely move. And so on.
These problems first became apparent when I was ten or eleven. I’d wake up in the morning with a ripping pain in my neck, unable to turn my head to the side. At first, I’d spend the day at home with a hot pack wrapped over the affected area and moving like Lurch in the Adams Family. After about the fourth time this happened, my parents realised I wasn’t just having a run of bad luck and took me to get it checked out. I was too young to really remember what the doctor said, but came away with the vague knowledge that my neck was crap, and that I needed a special pillow to help me sleep without hurting it. The pillow was expensive, smooshy and filled with goosedown, and as soon as I started using it, I felt better – or at least, I stopped waking up every second day in pain. Over the years, various people have suggested that I see a physiotherapist to see what’s changed since then. This is sound advice that I’ve never followed, primarily because physio is expensive, but also because, day to day, the situation is manageable. Lots of people have worse problems. I can cope. And a large part of that coping is my special pillow.
We bought it when I was, at most, eleven. I am now twenty-five. That means I’ve been sleeping with the same pillow almost every night for more than half my life. It has grown up with me, molding to fit the shape of my head. It is the most comfortable pillow I have ever used. It has accompanied me on innumerable sleepovers, holidays, school camps and weekends away. It came with me to college. But when we visited the UK in 2009 – and when we moved back here in January – it stayed behind. Or rather, it stayed in storage. For the past few months, it has been, along with all our other possessions, in transit, awaiting the day we finally found a place of our own and could take it home again. In the interim, I’ve had to use the cruddy pillows they give you as part of student accommodation. I have woken up most mornings with a sore neck, despite having spent upwards of ten minutes each night scrunching, twisting and rearranging the damn thing so as to try and make it comfortable.
We signed a lease on Sunday. The house is furnished, so we moved right in, but though it was an undeniable step up from where we’d been, it still didn’t feel like home.
Yesterday, we got up a little after 6am, caught the bus to Dundee, rented a van and moved all our thing into the new house. It was glorious. It was brilliant. All the creature comforts we’ve been living without were restored to us in one fell swoop. I spent the whole day unpacking, storing away all our things, most of which were books (well, mostly my books, if I’m honest) in neat little storage spaces.
Last night, for the first time in months, I slept with my special pillow. Though all my muscles hurt from a day of hard work, my neck is fine and free. We’ve really done it. We’ve really moved to Scotland.
And suddenly, I feel right at home.