The granite counter is covered in flour. Powdery and white, it resembles the snow that is falling outside.
I yelp as some tumbles onto the floor, but my mom is right there with a damp paper towel.
“Just keep going. You’re doing great,” she encourages. I dip my hands into the flour once more and rub it up and down the old wooden rolling pin. I stare at the dough in front of me. It is thick and grainy, but it holds the promise of being perfect. I start to lower the rolling pin.
“Hold on,” my mom stops me. “You forgot to sprinkle some onto the dough before you start.”
“Right,” I say, following her instructions. I have watched her do this countless times, memorized her actions; and yet, doing it myself is so much more challenging. I feel my mom’s steadying, warm hand on my own, guiding me in the motion of rolling out the dough. It is soft, easy to flatten, but I can’t seem to roll it out evenly. After a minute, we pause to flip the dough over. Then I continue.
“You’re doing great. Make sure the rolling pin goes in all directions, not just up and down.” My mom’s voice is like a blanket, or rather, an apron, wrapping around me like a hug. She is the only thing keeping me from messing it all up.
My arms are covered in flour up to the elbow. If I cross my eyes, I can see some on my nose, too. I am rocking the rolling pin back and forth in a consistent motion, occasionally changing direction at my mom’s indication. As I roll out the dough, I go over the generation-old recipe in my head.
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons shortening or lard
4-8 tablespoons cold water
There. A relatively round, relatively flat sheet of dough. My mom smiles at me, then warns, “This is the hard part. Do you want me to do it?” As much as I want to make this first one by myself, she should probably do it. I nod.
My mom takes a rectangular metal spatula and carefully slides it under the dough. With skill resulting from years of practice, she shimmies the spatula around and then out from under the dough. With it comes the leftover flour that got caught when we flipped the dough.
When my mom is done, she glances at me again, the same question in her eyes, but I shake my head this time. I want to do this part myself. I take the pan and place it in front of me, eyeing the halfway point. Memorizing it. Then, I gently take the bottom of the dough, and fold it over to the top so it makes a semi-circle. I do this quickly, as I’m exhaling, in order to quell my anxiety. I am nervous about the next part, but I do it the same way as I did the folding part. I gingerly slide my hands under the corners of the semi-circle, take a deep breath, and exhale as I lift the dough.
I quickly slide it onto the pan, but I overshoot the halfway point. A small tear also opens up in the dough.
I look at my mom, devastated, but she assures me it’s all right. “That was great for your first time,” she says. “And we can fix that little tear easily.”
She carefully shakes the dough a bit, moving it so it is more even. Then she opens it up and allows it to rest down into the pan. The tear is near the middle, at the bottom of the pan.
I pick up the pan in one hand and a butter knife in the other, and scrape the rim so the knife cuts off any excess dough that may be hanging off of it. Then, my mom takes a piece of the excess and presses it down into the tear. She applies some water, which acts like glue, and the dough is sealed once more. I smile at her. I think she is the smartest person in the world.
She smiles back. “Okay, time for the top crust.”
The top crust is a little easier because we do not need as much dough. I do all of the hard parts myself this time, though I am very timid about it. When it is ready, we pour cherries into the pan, vent the top crust, put water on the edges of the dough that lies in the pan, lay the top crust over the bottom crust and the filling, and step back to admire our work.
“We did it,” I remark. I am happy, proud.
My mom hugs me, flour and all. “No, you did it. I just helped a little.”
We place the pan in the oven. A while later, the timer goes off and I run to the kitchen. I peek inside the oven, put on some oven mitts, and take out the pan.