The Quest for the Holy Easy-Bake


"It's the thought that counts." That's what adults tell kids about gift-giving after they've unwrapped the seventh annual itchy, orange knit sweater with a kitten appliqued on it from Great Aunt Eunice.

Eventually, years of orange kitten pullovers, and pen sets, and copies of Dan Rather's biography (what kid should be without?) forge a sort of resigned appreciation for the gift-giver instead of the gift.

And by the time we reach our second decade, we step across the threshold into the adult world, with a certain deep wisdom. One which no longer focuses on the greedy materialism of youth-- as we now have our own cash and can buy whatever the heck we want for ourselves.

Which interestingly, rarely includes orange knit kitten sweaters.

In my own greedy, materialistic youth, I had wanted-- like I've discovered millions of girls of my generation had-- an Easy-Bake Oven.

Ah, yes-- the Easy-Bake Oven! The shining, light-bulb-powered tool of independent tea-party hostessing and tooth rot.

Now, I was not the sort of kid to ask for things for Christmas-- or any other time of the year, for that matter. This, like being Heard as well as Seen, was completely Illegal in my family.

I don't know how it happened, but I'm sure it was instilled in me in the very early hours of Kiddom. Much the way crying babies are left by some Native American tribes to howl alone in the woods until they get it out of their systems once and for all and stop embarrassing their parents in front of the neighbors fer cryin' out loud.

So my parents and I had a routine worked out. I would think about the things I'd like to get for Christmas and not tell anyone. They would then buy my Christmas gifts. After this, they would ask me what I wanted-- y'know, to see if it matched the things they already got me.

And I would say, whatever they got me was fine. They would go away smiling to have such a terrific kid who was not a problem whatsoever like all of those other kids who actually wanted stuff, the greedy little piglets.

And I would open up math flash cards and reading workbooks on Christmas morning and pretend to be excited.

I wrote the book Martyrdom for Munchkins, in case you were wondering. It was 30 pages and in Crayola marker, but still an introspective work for its size.

My one loophole in all of this was asking Santa. Now, unlike other kids, I didn't actually go talk to Santa because, again following the family ideals, he doesn't really want to hear about that sort of blather, he's a busy man with other kids to see, go read somewhere.

So I had developed my own canny theory about him.

I figured, if he knew when you were sleeping, he knew when you were awake, if he knew if you'd been bad or good...

Then he knew about the Easy-Bake.

Yes, my Santa had advanced mind-reading abilities-- sort of like Professor X of the X-Men but with less angst and more hair. And for several years, there was nothing in my mind but flash card sums and the throbbing desire for small cakes I could frost myself in my bedroom whenever I wanted.

By about year four of this-- with ne'er an Easy-Bake to be found reflecting in the glow of the Shiny-Brite ornaments on the tree-- I had to adjust my theory.

Oh, Santa was still a mind-reader, all right, I determined. But he just didn't give a flying fig whether I got my light-bulb-powered tool of baking delight or not. He had a world of other kids to attend to, and I was wasting my time.

So this one year, when my parents had already bought everything per normal and asked, "What do you want for Christmas?" I actually said it. It slipped out of my lips like smooth creamy icing.

"I want an Easy Bake Oven."

The words sounded so strange outside of my head. They bounced off the harvest-colored kitchen walls and echoed back at me.

Mom blinked, surprised I had veered so far off script. "Oh. Well. We'll see," she said, recovering nicely, I thought, from the curveball I'd thrown at her.

And with that, hope glowed in my heart like a tiny cake-baking lightbulb.

A week or two passed and the anticipation was building. I could almost taste those cakes melting in my mouth. So sweet,so slathered in pink icing and so loaded with jimmies and those little silvery edible ball-bearings.

This was going to be the best Christmas ever! It was getting so the anticipation was almost more than I could bear! And so when my parents went out one Saturday, leaving me to my own devices in the house, I verged violently from protocol once more.

I went searching for my Christmas gifts.

There was really no secret where Mom hid them. Nestled among her shoes and purses in the bottom of my parents' closet they were, naked and exposed, vulnerable to prying eyes and groping kid fingers.

What was this? A weaving loom with enough materials to make part of one whole potholder...

And here? A Little Professor math quiz calculator, marked with bright orange "As Is" stickers...

And under that? A new set of markers-- that was excellent, of course, as I tended to go through them like Kool-Aid. But they weren't the true Holy Grail I was after...

So what was this? At the very, very bottom of the bag?... Could it be?

It was a Betty Crocker Cake Mix, a muffin pan, and a couple of cookie cutters.

I sighed and wiped away a tear, slipping the mix... the pan... the cutters-- all that was NOT an Easy-Bake Oven-- back into the bag and buried it all once more under the shoes and purses and the Little Professor Math Quiz calculator, which never did work right unless you turned it on and off 20 times first.

I was nine and I had seen the future. And like Galahad, the only knight to have fleetingly set his peepers on that Holy Grail everyone was so hot on, I knew...

The lightbulb of hope flickered and winked out. The quest had ended.

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Today's question: So what was your Holy Grail of gifts as a kid? And did it live up to expectations?
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17 comments:

Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings said...

I always wanted an Easy Bake Oven. Never got one either. I also wanted a Barbie horse -- never got her either. Oh, and a Barbie car. I did get a walk-man one year and that was pretty cool. I didn't have to listen to my brother's music anymore. New Kids on the Block all the way! Whoot-whoot! And a Cabbage Patch doll. I wanted her too. She's gone now...given away. *sigh* Those childhood things we seemed to want soooo bad..looking back I'm not sure what the big deal was anyhow.

Jenn Thorson said...

Lisa- Oh, I ended up buying my own knock-off Barbie jeep at a flea market. I loved it-- it was pink and blue and called "The Powder Puff". :) I guess the big deal to us as kids we didn't have bigger things to make big deals over. I remember worrying about things that were kinda small, too, with today's perspective.

ReformingGeek said...

I got the Easy-Bake but it was renegaded to the garage. Weird, huh? Baking in a dirty garage with gas cans nearby.

Oh, wait. I seemed to have missed an opportunity.

lifeshighway said...

I got the Easy Bake oven but what I wanted in my heart of hearts was a Barbie. That is right I never had one. My Mom considered her "too developed" more proper for an older girl. So I had to make do with flat chested Skipper who never had the beautiful evening gowns, snappy outfits or killer high heels.

Jenn Thorson said...

Reforming Geek- Was she afeared the great power of the lightbulb would, I dunno, burn the house down? :)

LifesHighway- Aw... I'm sorry to hear that. It's true, Skipper would just not be the same.

Knucklehead said...

Well done, Jenn! My holy grail was the official Electric Football. You know, the big slab of sheet metal with a gridiron painted on it, and the little plastic players, one of whom always spun around in circles like the most brain-dead lineman on the Detroit Lions.

Got it when I was about eight. Played it for hours.

MikeWJ at Too Many Mornings said...

Oh, Jenn, this was heartbreaking to read. Really. I wasn't deprived when I was a kid, but it's awful to want something when you're a kid and to know you're never going to get it. I still hate gift sweaters and socks myself. They feel like a non-gifts to me. Toys and candy are gifts. Flash cards and calculators are learning tools. It's hard to remember what I wanted when I was a kid, but for years now, as a full-growed adult, I've craved an iTouch. And for years now, I haven't gotten one. Or much of anything fun. But I'm an adult; I deal with it. Because what choice do I have?

Deray said...

I have 3 holy grail gifts as a kid: a Cabbage Patch doll, a house for my Barbies and a Bike. That's right folks, I never had a bike. I learn how to ride on my brother's mountain bike, when I was 12y old.

As for the doll-house, all I got was a camper, seriously!

Nanny Goats In Panties said...

Call me spoiled, but I did get an Easy Bake Oven. In retrospect, it was LAME!!! You were lucky if you got 2 bites of cake out of it. But of course, it wasn't the oven you missed out on, so much as mere bragging rights and full embracing of the hype. And that loom? Was it a wooden circle? I made pot holders off of those, too!

Jenn Thorson said...

Knucklehead- Ah, yes-- I think one of my friends' brothers had that. The same guy who had the Evil Knievel ramp jumping figure you'd written about. Excellent!

Mike- I wouldn't say I was deprived, exactly-- I received things, but my parents just tended to along the overly frugal and educational lines. So stuff was either not exactly exciting, or they were on clearance (and had something wrong with them) when I got them. I am, however, probably the only person who LOVES Christmas socks. May you get your iTouch this Christmas, Mike-- or some other good toy for big kids. :)

Deray- I think parents don't often understand that one toy isn't the same as the other. They don't remember building plans in their heads as kids for all the things you might do in that doll house. Or they don't see how the cake mix and using the stove is not the same as the EasyBake. They mean well, I believe, but substitutions just don't always work.

Nanny-Goats- I think it was a square. It was so funny, it only came with a few pieces to weave with, so it wasn't actually enough to really make anything. So I would just take them on and off, changing the patterns of the colors. I did have a small circular yarn weaver and hook (got that the same year) that was for knitting tubes (in this case, sleeveless Barbie dresses).

Shirley said...

Now, I feel kind of bad. I always got nearly everything I wanted on the holidays. I think my gram was compensating for the weirdness in my family. I had the oven and my mom or gram was always buying the cake mix for it.

Jenn Thorson said...

Shirley- Oh, you went through many worse things than I ever did. If an EasyBake helped compensate for any of those things even a little bit, it was worth it.

Melanie said...

Wow Jenn, I'm beginning to think we're long lost cousins. Your family sounds just like mine. What I wanted more than anything was a Lite Brite. Nope, never got one though I did get a little laptop chalk board desk thing one year that was roughly the same size and shape as a lite brite.

Diana Freedman said...

I used to LOVE the easy bake oven. I got my mom's hand-me-down from like the 60's though, so I think I only used my own once or twice. (I mean, same light-bulb concept, right?) But it was fun going to friends' places and feeling all grown-up to bake something on my own, miniature style!

Jenn Thorson said...

Melanie- Ah! My grandpa found a Lite Brite for me at a garage sale-- it was a lot of fun. I didn't have all the pegs, but it was still doable. I know the laptop chalkboards you mean, I think-- did it come with alphabetical letters to help with spelling? I liked that better than the math flash cards. :)

Diana- Wow, the EasyBake has had quite a lengthy history, hasn't it? I noticed they have them still as a big featured toy. Timeless!

Lidian said...

I wanted an Easy Bake Oven too. And like you, I didn't tell anyone about it. So yeah, how come Santa didn't know about it, if he was supposed to be so omniscient?

I did get a Lite Brite one year, though :)

Jenn Thorson said...

Lidian- Ah, you too? You know, it's funny, to this day my dad will proudly say how as a kid I was so wonderful because I never asked them for anything. And I chuckle thinking, well, I also kinda wasn't ALLOWED to, so... :)

I'm glad you got your Lite Brite. They were truly fun toys!!