This week’s blog started out as a how-to piece for saving money on kitchen tools. I had intended to inform my readers that the cheapest and longest lasting kitchenalia (yes, that’s what it’s called) is found at yard sales, tag sales and church thrift shops. There, the worn but loved tools that made someone’s house a home are ready to move on. For a long time, a day rummaging through a stranger’s life and scoring bargains at the same time was my slice of heaven. I have purchased dozens of bottle openers (church keys) advertising Pabst Blue Ribbon, Schlitz and other names of long discontinued breweries because they were priced at 25¢. It’s hard to turn down anything that cost a quarter.
One Christmas, my exhaustion after whipping up five dozen ginger bread cookies, led me to make the un-wise decision of washing my rolling pin in the dishwasher. (Never try this at home.) The wobbling warped wood went into the trash can and I went on the hunt for a new one that January. Traditionally, the first month of the New Year was my medical check-up time and I dutifully made my mammogram appointment along with a dental visit and my yearly blood test. My pearly whites and my red blood cells were fine. My mammogram results were not. They were suspicious. I needed tests and surgery and radiation treatments-all to eradicate my pre-cancer. I did not handle it well. I was on edge and cranky from sun-up to sundown. Mostly I lived as if my funeral was days away.
An ad for a near-by yard sale somehow managed to get me out of the house. A seventyish woman with brittle blonde hair done in a 1950’s page boy was selling her home and moving south. She hovered over her soon-to-be former belongings as if she was putting her puppies up for adoption. I watched as she gave a detailed history on each of her treasures. I was in no mood to listen to her happy chatter and turned to go. But there it was, placed between nesting bowls and a set of measuring cups; my rolling pin. Its three piece masterful construction in warm maple bearing its proud name-Foley.
I held out my five dollar bill, hoping to avoid eye contact with the blonde stranger who was so obviously beginning a new adventure and couldn’t possibly know my pain and suffering. I was mired in the thought that I would leave behind my beautiful son to fend for himself like an orphan. (Actually, he was 23, but my poor-me mood had given me a Dickensian imagination.)
“That rolling pin has seen a lot of pies and breads. It should really go to a baker. Are you a baker?” she pried. I mumbled, “Yes,” hoping the conversation was over. It wasn’t. She talked on about the joy of holiday baking for her children and family until finally, another customer needed her. I took the Foley home even though I was sure I wouldn’t live long enough to use it.
That was eleven years ago. My Foley and I have since massaged hundreds of bread doughs and even more pie crusts. Last week, I used it to make sugar cookies for my son and his family. Every time it leaves the closet for a dusting of flour and a challenging workout, I pray for its first owner and give thanks for the lesson I learned about self-pity. Had I chosen not to selfishly guard myself that day, I would have seen a woman making the most of her challenges. She was growing old; leaving the home where she raised her children and made memories of her youth. Surely she knew she wouldn’t be baking in her new residence and had I given her the tiniest opportunity, she could have expressed that letting-go to me.
I give generous time slots to strangers who choose to share their burdens with me now. I just picture my Foley and listen while they sort out their fears. It’s a small gift I bring to others – as easy as rolling out Christmas cookies, but the sweetness it brings to both sharer and listener, lasts longer.