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Pillow requires a down payment

(ran HP HS HC editions)

The woman in the elevator looked quizzically at the large, yet obviously lightweight, box I had under one arm.

"It's a $2,300 pillow," I said.

"Sure," she said.

Well, it was. It was a king-size Legends Eiderdown Pillow from the Company Store, a catalog house specializing in bedding. I was hauling it home for a test snooze.

With very likely the most expensive pillow in the world snuggled in the trunk of the Volvo, I thought about the long and very expensive road it had traveled.

The cover is German silk woven to a supersmooth thread count of 435 to the square inch.

The main event, the stuffing of the thing, isn't some unnatural pillow-helper sort of fill but 26 ounces of down, specifically the down of the eider duck.

Said duck is the largest in the Northern Hemisphere, nesting in chilly places such as Iceland, the main source of eiderdown. A prospective mother eider pulls the down from her breast to insulate her eggs against the cold.

Down is composed of microfine threads with tiny, Velcro-like hooks giving the material the ability to attach to other bits of down, resulting in a superior insulating quality as well as an amazing elasticity.

When mama and offspring have no more need of the nest, they leave it to the winds or to the Icelandic Association of Eiderduck Farmers. These farmers, about 100 of them, harvest the abandoned down, doing no harm to the ducks.

The down is dried, heated to sterilize it and cleaned. Eiderdown for the $2,300 pillow wends to the Company Store pillow factory in LaCrosse, Wis. Like a good pizza, the Legends Eiderdown Pillow is made to order.

My 13-year-old, introduced to the pricey pillow, gave it and me his "that's just dumb" look. He tried a test rest, sinking slowly and softly into the former fetal duck warmer. "Seems a little soft," he noted.

"It's medium density for back sleepers," I recited. "You and I are side sleepers for whom firm density would be more appropriate."

He pushed in on the middle of the pillow with his hand, then let go. The pillow rose back to its original shape with a slow purposefulness that made it seem almost alive.

"It's alive," he said, putting on his spooky voice.

Don't ask me what it's like to sleep on a $2,300 pillow. The kid won't give it up.