Last Saturday was the Night of Writing Dangerously. A complete blast; I finished my story (in highly experimental unedited tell-don't-show form) and got my wrists massaged. At some point during the six-hour evening, my friend Jackie (familiar to you through the Buttered Cat Incident) began regaling our table of 14 writers with stories of my Easy Bake oven. Immediately all the writers, eager to increase their word counts, placed my embarrassing Easy Bake oven stories into their novels. I'm only blogging about it in order to prove prior use in the upcoming copyright suits.
So. When I was a kid, my eldest grown-up sister brought me Easy Bake cake mixes for Christmas. As soon as I opened them, I knew that meant that either Santa Claus or my mom had gotten me an Easy Bake oven. One full hour of giftwrap ripping later, I found out my logic was flawed. When I asked how I could possibly bake the EB cakes without an EB oven, my sister said, "Just use the real oven." This is the kind of make-do frugality I grew up with. (Btw, my sister is now an accountant who votes Republican.)
So I totally used the real oven. As proof, there are photos of me standing in the front yard proudly showing off tiny chocolate cakes with candied sprinkles. (I'm also wearing a fringed suede vest and psychedelic socks, but hey, it was 1970.) The big joke here is that, at age 9, I'd already baked and frosted countless outsized cakes for our family of seven, on top of handling my weekly cookie preparation duties as part of the regular Thursday night snack effort. I was also in charge of table setting, dish drying (I was too short to put them away, too little to wash them properly), and cheese grating. Why I would sign up for microscopic cake baking is beyond me. But a toy that simulates a chore is very different from an actual chore.
I rolled with the Easy Bake incident. I figured that, at some point, I'd be presented with my own toy oven. Until then, I wasn't going to worry about it. Sometime the next summer, my friend Veronica down the street invited me over to bake something in her EBO. I was enchanted by the opulence of it all. We baked. Then I went home. Never realizing that that was the only Easy Bake oven experience I would ever have.
Until I met Jackie. One day at work she casually referred to her childhood EBO hijinks, including unscrewing light bulbs from living room lamps whenever she needed replacement bulbs for her oven. When she got to, "Every year I'd break that oven, then ask for a new one. Then that one would be broken within two weeks after Christmas."
Hold on here. The broken Easy Bake oven was replaced? Replaced? REPLACED??? In my wildest dreams, I could not imagine requesting a new version of a toy I had callously broken the year before. In fact, I think my Velvet doll (the creepy one that grows hair when you turn a knob on her back) is still around in my Mom's box of toys for visiting grandchildren. I know the Barbie I had was the original, complete with zebra-striped swimsuit, that was new when my eldest sister owned it 12 years before I did.
Jackie's nonchalant statement let me glimpse a world of luxurient grandeur. I pictured her parents lingering over dinner, lighting dollar bills on fire. "Pass some more name-brand cola, please," I could hear her father say.
I queried her intently. She countered with her own interrogation. Her advanced questioning technique allowed me to access "recovered" memories. I had never owned an Easy Bake oven. A further stunning realization followed: I had played with one only once. My entire childhood had slipped by without this rite of passage. I felt like a Jew who had skipped her own Bat Mitzvah.
Suddenly, I had to have an Easy Bake oven. Not the new, bright pink, microwave-looking kind. The old steel and plastic turquoise kind that Science tells us cannot be used without inflicting second-degree burns. I was overbidding on eBay before you could say, "add one teaspoon of water."