Ever since I can remember, this rolling pin has been part of my life. My mother always used it to make her pies, and as far back as I can remember it has been missing one of the red handles. The spot where the other handle should have been is clearly visible, but I was probably approaching my teen years before I realized that this rolling pin wasn't quite normal. Rolling pins were actually supposed to have two handles. And yes, I did have one of those tiny replica rolling pins that little girls everywhere had (and continue to have, I guess). But I thought the little toy had two handles because it was for children, and that real, grown-up rolling pins needed only one handle.
My maternal grandmother, Anna, was the first person to own this rolling pin, which makes me a third-generation owner. I never knew this grandmother because she died a few weeks before my parents got married back in 1954. I know only what my mother and aunts have told me about her through the years. She had rheumatic fever as a child and always had heart problems thereafter; in fact, her early death was caused by a massive heart attack. The only surviving child of a Baptist and a bookie, she was much loved. She was also quite beautiful and it is no wonder that she captured the heart of my grandfather shortly after he arrived in the United States from Great Britain. Together they had five children, burying one in the dark days of summer diphtheria outbreaks. My mother was the baby of the family and, from what I can gather, the sunshine of her parents’ lives.
I’m not sure how my mother came to own the rolling pin – I don’t know if she was given it when she moved out after college or after her mother died or what... I inherited it at the time my parents’ marriage dissolved, when I was 16. Through the years and several moves, one across the country, I’ve somehow managed to hang onto this most pedestrian of kitchen tools, the wooden rolling pin with the red handle. Every pie I’ve ever made has been rolled out with this pin. I think of Anna and I think of my mother each time I’ve used it.
My own childhood contains vivid memories of sitting at the kitchen table, watching my mother roll out dough and slice up apples. Even now, just the faintest smell of cinnamon will bring that memory back to me. If we were very good, Mom would let us play with the trimmings of raw dough after she’d finished putting the pie together. What great fun we’d have with that stuff – colorless and a little greasy, yet we considered it better than playdough, for some odd reason. Even better were the rare occasions when Mom would have enough leftover dough to make what she called “tarts” for us: small pieces of pie dough rolled out, liberally sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, and then baked until crispy. I can see -- and smell -- them coming out of the oven now.
The solid wood rolling pin is a classic, even with one handle missing. This one isn’t much to look at, but when I do look at it, it’s a lot.