My mother handed me the cylinder shaped object with carved handles on each end, all of which was made out of one solid piece of wood. It was smooth to the touch with medium to dark brown tones. The grain pattern was beautiful as was its form; sure to be appreciated by any woods craftsman for both its workmanship and the substance of which it was made. It’s an heirloom of sorts and, as it is with all heirlooms, there’s a story with which it comes.
The cylinder shaped object belonged to my Grandmother Stoltz. It was her rolling pen made for her by my grandfather’s brother, Great Uncle Paul Stoltz. He was visiting my grandparents one day and noticed my grandmother trying to roll out dough with a glass bottle. Deciding that a glass bottle was not a proper tool for dough rolling, he made it one of his tasks to create a rolling pen for his sister-in-law. He chose the wood needed. Then he smoothed and shaped it by hand, forming it into the beautiful utensil once held by my grandmother’s hands, and that I now held in mine.
I brought it toward my face and drew in a breath. The scent of dough could still be detected and, from the depths of my consciousness, memories began to flow. The sweet recall of family gatherings, faces, sounds, smells, and voices filled with laughter all came rushing to the forefront of my thoughts.
For decades the rolling pen was used by my grandmother’s loving hands to create the most wonderful delicacies for her family and friends. In the late afternoons my cousins and I would raid her pie cupboard to wolf down her biscuits made earlier in the morning. Even when cold, they were delicious! Her pie crusts were tender and oh…so buttery. She could make Moravian sugar cookies and ginger cookies as thin and excellent as any fine bakery. They didn’t have a thing on her! We had Moravian cookies every Christmas created in the shape of stars, trees, ginger bread men, and hearts, all made by my grandmother. And no one, but no one, could make a better apple turnover. I can still remember their smell to this day. Her yeast rolls were, as the saying goes, “to die for”! Savory and sweet, her baking and cooking was a delight for all who had the privilege and pleasure of sitting down at her table to eat.
As I remember, she never used a recipe, or least I never saw her refer to one. I only wish that I had watched and learned how to make those mouth watering delights. It was my mistake because I don’t have a written recipe to which I can refer. Oh sure…there are many recipes floating around in cookbooks and on the internet, but they are not my grandmother’s recipes. It would have been her pleasure to teach me, but I was young and didn’t have a clue, so I didn’t take the time to stand by her side and learn. I didn’t know then how much I would miss her culinary creations. I didn’t know how much they would be missed, not only for their tastes, but also because of the memories associated with those tastes and smells; memories filled with hugs, smiles, laughs, and most of all…love.
Family heirlooms come in a variety of artifacts that hold historical or sentimental value. I possess one in the form of a rolling pen that was created by the hands of a great-uncle to be used by the hands of a dearly loved grandmother. The rolling pen now resides in my kitchen. And every now and then I bring it to my face, breathing in again the precious memories stored within its woody fiber.
Linda S. Montgomery
February 17, 2014