When I was about five or six, there was one present that I remember wanting more than any other present in the world and that was the Kenner Easy Bake Oven. As a devoted watcher of Saturday morning cartoons and weekday afternoon reruns of Gilligan’s Island there was no way I could possibly avoid this clever plot by Kenner to turn me into a housewife. However my feminist flag was not yet flying back then so all I knew was that I wanted in on the land of tiny cake mixes and mixing bowls and I was blissfully unaware of their totally sexist marketing plan.
That oven was gorgeous. Two stories of turquoise blue/green baking magic and I just knew if I had that towering inferno of baking bliss my life would be utterly complete, or as complete as it could be without a driver’s license or any money or an education beyond first grade. With a Kenner Easy Bake Oven I could whip up not only multiple layer cakes and brownies but also adorable bite-sized cookies that I would surely not give to my faithful dog companion Cricket, at least not while anyone was looking, I could also make rolls and pies to share with my ever-growing collection of Madame Alexander dolls. Dolls so pretty that I of course never ever actually played with them, because well, that would be absurd.
My obsession with the Kenner Easy Bake Oven was the girl equivalent of Ralphie Parker’s obsession in A Christmas Story with the “Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time”. I love that movie for lots of reasons but mostly because it brilliantly shows the single-minded hyper-focused determination that only young children have. Once you get past a certain age this type of crazy behavior can only lead to lots of credit card debt and retraining orders. And just like our mutual devotion to getting that ONE awesome sauce present, Ralphie Parker and I faced a similar roadblock, a disapproving mother. Jay Z might have 99 problem, but I had only one and it was a biggie.
To be fair, BB guns can shoot your eyes out. But what harm could possibly come from a two-story oven with tiny mixing pans and plastic spatulas? My mother thought Easy Bake Ovens were dangerous which was ridiculous and would be like saying lamps are dangerous because let’s be real, those ovens were nothing but a few pounds of plastic, a bit of metal and a couple of light bulbs. Hypocrite thy name is mother because just a couple of years later Santa (i.e. my Target shopping but not label removing mother) gave me the previously discussed Thingmaker replete with quite probably toxic goo and metal plates so hot they could have straightened Carole King’s hair back in her Tapestry days.
Nope, no matter how many times I wrote to Santa or even told the man himself in person there was very little chance that Easy Bake Oven was ever going to be mine. In my family Christmas Eve was always the bigger deal. Santa always made it to my house in record time, usually before we made it home from my grandparent’s or aunt’s. Even if Christmas Eve was at our house I always seemed to just miss him. One time I swear he came and went while I was brushing my teeth. My parent’s were raising their second set of children (me) and were obviously quite lazy at that point in their Santa duties.
The year I so desperately wanted the Kenner Easy Bake Oven was going to be different though. My cousins from California were coming so they could experience a white Christmas for the first time. I don’t remember very much about their visit, other than being informed that Santa was not going to be making his usual Christmas Eve appearance like he had every other year, this time he was going to be late, Christmas Day morning late. This was practically heresy in my book, but it was the way the visiting cousins did it so instead of going out skating or sliding or doing any of the normal stuff snow people do I had to sit around and wait for everyone else to get up and open their presents like I guess beach people do. Needless to say I was not very pleased, not very pleased at all.
I was never an early riser but since everything else in my life was all sorts of topsy-turvy I woke up Christmas morning before anyone else. I went into the living room to look and see what our friend from the north and his eight tiny reindeer brought me when out of the corner of my eye I saw the one thing that I wanted more than anything else in the world, the Kenner Easy Bake Oven. Oh, the cookies and layer cakes with frosting I was going to make were going to make this the best Christmas ever. My cousin Jane was going to be so jealous (her mom was also anti-lightbulb, it must have been genetic) and I could not wait to call her and slightly rub it in. Just like Robert Smith, I was in heaven.
But then I saw the name tag on the box of baking magic that I had wanted for so long and it was not mine, it was my visiting cousin’s Kenner Easy Bake Oven. How could this be? How could it be in my house under my tree and not be MINE? I had just been Punk’d by Santa, and Punk’d good, years before that show or even MTV had been invented.
All I know is for the rest of the day I put on an Oscar-worthy performance for which I was not nominated for an award. No one knew that I had ever thought that Kenner Easy Bake Oven was mine nor did they know how much it pained me to play with someone else’s gift that I had so greatly desired. I got over it, sort of, and there were lots of other toys and games and clothes that I desired greatly and received but nothing ever came close to the way I felt for those first few moments when I thought that damn oven was mine.