The Pie Safe

By Sharon Brown (Sharon) on August 19, 2010

It was almost as old as the mountains it came from, but that pie safe held much more than pies. It held all the dreams of a little girl, and it held all the scents of her childhood.

I have a fondness for old things.  It could be said I feel that way because of my own advanced age, but the truth is, I’ve always loved old things. In this fast paced world of bling and glitz, things that were lovingly made by hands that belonged to my ancestors touch my heart.


Let me tell you about my pie safe. It took 40 years and 500 miles before it actually came to live with me, but it’s always been mine.2010-08-19/Sharran/56a2ca


A pie safe is a wondrous thing. The one I grew up with was very old when I was very young.  It was a great hiding place, cool and dark, and as I pushed myself into its farthest corner, I could see out of the tiny holes that adorned its doors. It smelled of old, a sweet musty smell, almost as if all the pies it held over the years had left their sweet spices within its wooden walls. I made many plans, dreamed many dreams, while resting in it's murky depths: I would become a doctor, I would save many lives; I would have many daughters and I would teach them to dance; I would fly across the heavens like a bird; I would climb to the mountain top and I would touch the sun. It was a place for magical dreams.


I fell asleep one late afternoon behind its doors, and woke only to the sound of my name being called. It scared me a little until I peeked through the holes and could see where I was. I just sat back awhile longer and listened as they searched for me, then paid the price for not answering when they called.


There are those who have no idea what a pie safe is.  There are also those who never saw Sputnik cross the dark sky or carried a marvelous transistor radio in its little leather case, or even dan2010-08-19/Sharran/bf6055ced in bobby sox on the gym floor to the sound of Elvis on a 45 rpm recording. Most girls don’t wear elbow length white lace gloves with their prom dresses either, but I did.  It was a great place to attach the green cymbidium orchid wrist corsage from my boyfriend.


A pie safe is a cupboard with pierced-tin doors. Years ago it was used to store pies after baking. The tiny holes provided ventilation, which kept the piecrusts from becoming soggy. Of course, that was before the invention of ice boxes and refrigerators. It was also before I was born.


The one that lived at my house had been built by my great great grandfather, and was considered a treasure.  My mother had a refrigerator, so she never used the safe for storing pies. Most of the time it held her cook books and tea towels, and sometimes it held me. I was fascinated by the tiny pierced holes in the doors, they were artfully done, creating a sunburst of design. When one was scrunched up in the dark inside looking out, the light shined through, creating the sunburst. To me it was magic.


On the outside of the doors, the sunburst design was painful to touch, because the sharp edges of the holes faced the outside. Inside was smooth as silk, and perhaps that’s why I spent so much time tucked away  within its spicy depths. The outside was too scratchy, just like real life, and I wasn't yet old enough to deal with its scratches.


The pie safe was given to me years ago by my mother after I had grown up, but I'd always known it was mine. No one else ever spent time dozing and dreaming within its walls. But I lived 500 miles away from my hometown, and there was no room in our vehicle to bring it home with me.  My brother didn’t have the wanderlust that I had, he had remained in our hometown and lived in a restored log house, so it was decided that the pie safe would live with him and his family until it found a way to travel from the mountains to my home here in western Kentucky. 


Over the years I longed for that pie safe. Every time I redecorated, I left a wall empty, just knowing I’d get it soon.  But every time I visited my brother or he visited me, the vehicle was filled with luggage, kids, dogs, toys and other necessary items. There was never room for my pie safe.2010-08-19/Sharran/5f4d7d


Years passed. My husband died, my children moved to faraway places, and I remained alone in my too big house. I redecorated, I gave away excess furniture, I added a lamp or two, a book case here and there, and still I left one empty wall just for the pie safe.


Last Thursday I got a call from my brother.


“We’re coming to see you,” he said.


They arrived late Friday night, my brother and his wife, tired after a 500 mile trip. On Saturday morning my sister in law said, “Come hold the door open for us, we’ve brought you a surprise.”


They brought that wonderful pie safe to me.  The empty wall in my home is now filled with it. I open its doors and remember my hiding place. I sniff its walls and smell the scent of hundreds of pies.  I peep through the sunbursts of the doors, and I sense magic. I close my eyes and remember my dreams.


2010-08-19/Sharran/b4ff17The pie safe is nearly 200 years old. It has survived the ravages of time much better than I have. Its wood came from the trees that covered the mountains where I grew up, and no doubt the tin that covers its doors was leftover from the tin that covered the roof of the home of my ancestors. It’s still strong and stately, and it still has purpose. I will fill it, not with pies, but with things I love and hold dear. And someday when it has outlasted me, I hope there will be one who will love that pie safe as much as I do.


Don't forget to click on each photo to enlarge it, and also remember that you can scroll your browser over each photo for a brief description. Maybe you'll even see the magic that I see through the punched tin doors.

Related articles:
Appalachian mountains, growing up, memories, pie safe, pie safes, pies, southeast Kentucky

About Sharon Brown
I am a retired arts and humanities teacher who grew up in the Appalachian mountains of southeast Kentucky. I taught in Louisville, then eventually moved to far western Kentucky where I retired 4 years ago. I am an artist and a writer, and my favorite subjects to write about are the mountains and wildflowers of eastern Kentucky. They are very nearly my favorite subjects to paint, too. Truth is, I left my heart back in those mountains.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Pie Safe. KAMasud Aug 6, 2013 5:32 AM 4
I left my heart in a pie safe flaflwrgrl Nov 9, 2011 8:33 PM 3
You always make me tear up! A_Rare_Rose Dec 4, 2010 3:48 PM 3
Beautiful! NEILMUIR1 Nov 27, 2010 12:06 AM 5
Pie safe Ridesredmule Aug 28, 2010 11:00 PM 3
I see You! dahlianut Aug 27, 2010 4:38 PM 1
Home at last! Trisha_S Aug 26, 2010 4:06 PM 3
I Love this! Katg Aug 25, 2010 12:13 AM 4
I had no idea! LarryR Aug 23, 2010 12:08 AM 1
The pie safe is home! PollyK Aug 20, 2010 4:46 PM 3
Touching Story vic Aug 20, 2010 10:46 AM 10
What a wonderful gift! Zanymuse Aug 19, 2010 10:29 PM 10
You spoke to me, Sharon Aguane Aug 19, 2010 9:34 PM 1

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