In the antique store on the corner of Franklin and Main, among cut glass candy dishes and earthenware moonshine jugs, were rolling pins. Wooden, dinged, well-used. In each room they were stashed in groups of three or four, standing on end in a tin bucket, or displayed like vintage wines on an iron rack. Their handles were worn smooth from a grandmother’s floured grip rolling pie crusts, rolling cookies, pounding nuts to crack them open or crumble them to dust. The pins had history, were golden with the oils and warmth of caring hands.
Or of drudging ones. How many of these were wielded as weapons? How many mothers chased a drunken husband with one, or a naughty child, Mother’s hair wild, curls coming loose from her braid in the hot kitchen where soup bubbled and the steam made her hair sproing?
Looking at these pins, inanimate now, tucked under a harvest table in an antique shop, I saw love and work. I saw fleshy palms and red cheeks, flour poofs and golden pastry. I saw Christmas Eve with shiny copper cookie cutters shaped like stars and candy canes. I saw meat pies and bubbles through slits in the crust. I saw buttery dough with rough edges as strong feminine forearms, muscled like Popeye’s on spinach, rolled, pressed, and turned the smooth sheet. A bosom heaved, and there may have been grunting if the dough was too tough. The pin would clank on the counter, the handles would rattle. Children would sneak corners and pinch edges off, and nibble and giggle while Mom raised the wooden pin, “Don’t you touch that crust!” And she’d try to look mean and menacing, but it was Christmas and she’d break down and start giggling too.
How many stories were in these wooden pins? Were they all from Virginia? Maybe some traveled here from Appalachian Ohio, or West Virginia. Maybe even from Minnesota, like me. Would I feel their history if I touched them? If I bought one and used it – that honey one there, with handles so polished with use they fairly gleamed – would my pies and cookies be enchanted? The pins looked smooth to touch, and they were comforting in their roundness. I could cup my hand around a cylinder and run it down the pin’s length. Would it be cool or warm in this antique shop? Would it tell me a story?
A resolution that came out of my writing workshop was to take an artist’s day out every week. Last week I visited Antiques on Main in Christiansburg, VA where the rolling pins caught my eye and inspired this piece.