Friday, September 14, 2007

Family history as seen through a rolling pin

16 years ago I was about to get married and was busy collecting all the items I would need to set up my new home. We'd received various things as wedding gifts, my mother had been buying me little odds and ends for months, I had some craftsy things I'd collected, and most of the rest we bought. We would be shipping all of our worldly possessions from New York to Israel in a freight container and it was nearly time to deliver everything to the freight forwarder's warehouse so it could be loaded into the container and put on a ship, ready to cross the Atlantic and join us in our new home.

As my mother and I sat in her kitchen packing things up, we realized that I didn't have a rolling pin. This certainly wasn't a calamity, I didn't anticipate making all that many pie crusts (certainly not in the early weeks when we didn't even have an apartment of our own yet), but my mother thought I should have one and offered me one of the two she had.

One was a fairly standard rolling pin - a cylinder which spun along an axle as you held the handles on each side. Perfectly serviceable. Fairly new even.

The second one pulled from way in the back of the shelf looked different. It was much longer and much thinner, and tapered at each end. There was no rolling cylinder, no spinning. It was little more than a long thin dowel. I'd never seen one quite like it, it certainly wasn't the one my mother used when she baked.
I learned that that second rolling pin had belonged to my great-grandmother, who had died when I was five. I vaguely remember a very old woman in a nursing home, but I was much too young to know her when she was still living, and baking, on her own. She'd had a reputation as an incredible baker though. The kind who made wonderful things without a recipe, using only her special glass to measure - a glass of this, a half a glass of that... (Years later my grandmother, deathly afraid that she'd accidentally break the glass one day and lose all her mother's recipes, decided to measure it. It was exactly one cup.)

There was no contest. That old piece of wood was just calling out to me. It needed to be used, not left languishing on a back shelf.

The rolling pin was over 100 years old when I got it. I often imagine my great-grandmother carefully rolling out her pie crust or her dough and wonder what she would think to know that her old rolling pin had crossed the ocean and is now rolling out crust for quiches and pizzas and even the occasional Rosh Hashana apple pie for her great-granddaughter's family in far away Israel, a country that didn't even exist yet when she was using it, but a land that her husband always dreamed of seeing someday.

I think she'd like it.


13 comments:

Melissa Garrett said...

Seriously amazing! I love stories like this :-)

Summer said...

I'm sure she is thrilled that you are making good use of it. That is a gorgeous rolling pin in wonderful condition. I have a couple family treasures, one of them being my great great grandmother's recipe box.

margalit said...

I too have a family french rolling pin. I don't know exactly where it came from, but my mother didn't like it, saying it was too light, and gave it to me when I was in college. She said it had some from one of her aunts, my grandmother's bevy of sisters, but I've long forgotten which one. Lily? Rose, Evvy? Helen? I just don't know. But I still use it all the time.

It makes a great weapon, too, when you're threatening people to get the hell out of your kitchen and stop bothering you.!

Robin said...

Wow Summer, what a treasure indeed. Were there recipes in it?

Margalit, I'll have to remember that weapon idea. Sounds like it could come in handy ;-).

Jen said...

I love that story. So few things are passed down these days; makes the few that do even more precious.

Jo said...

I love that the glass was just one cup. Nicely told.

grace said...

Amazing story. I wish I have something to pass to my daughter and to the future generations. I could imagine you using that rolling pin and thinking of the previous loving hands who used it in the past. Must be making baking more special.

Are you passing it to your daughter?

Kathy said...

That's a fabulous story. It would be amazing to have such an heirloom.

Helena said...

My Bubbie had one just like it ... and now it's mine.

Rachel said...

I also have a rolling pin like that from my Bubbie, may she rest in peace. She brought it with her from Poland to Canada, and I brought it with me when I moved from Canada to Israel!

J. Lynne said...

What a wonderful story!

Nancy said...

Such a warm hug story. Glad you linked to it today =)

Lilibeth said...

That's an amazing rolling pin. I've never seen on so thin. I do have my mom's old one though and I plan to keep it for my granddaughter so she can write a blog about it someday. I hope she won't have moved to the moon.