The Holy Grail of Christmas Presents: The Easy-Bake Oven

Submitted into Contest #173 in response to: Coming up with a gift idea was the easy part — getting your hands on it is another thing entirely.... view prompt


Christmas Funny Happy

The Holy Grail of Christmas Presents: The Easy-Bake Oven

Not all dads are made alike.

- Some are organized, plan ahead, and get their Christmas shopping done in November. Some are disorganized, procrastinate, and battle the crowds on December 24th to secure the desired gifts.

-Some spoil and dote on their children. Some spoil and dote on their children to the extreme.

-Some give up, make adjustments, and seek alternatives. Some never give up, steadfastly refuse to alter course, and stubbornly reject options.

This is the sad saga of a disorganized, procrastinating, doting, stubborn dad during the Holiday Season of 1989. Caution- some of the images may be disturbing.

It's always good to understand the writer’s background, his or her personal history as it relates to a particular subject, which could influence the narrative. I was scarred at an early age by the character known as Santa. (Warning: Believers, avert your eyes until you see the words “Safe to read” below.)) Fortunately, I cannot recall my exact grade level at the time as it may have been so embarrassingly late in life that I might still be hiding under my bed.

Sister Martin was leading a discussion on the topic of Santa.

“Is it ok for parents to tell their children there is a Santa?”

“No, Sister, that’s telling a lie.”

“Well, it’s ok because it’s just a fun things for kids even if it’s not true.”

As Popeye would say, “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more.”

“Sister, what are you all talking about? You are all talking like there is no Santa, and I know there is a Santa because one early Christmas morning my Grandfather sat at his kitchen table and had a cup of coffee with Santa.”

Stunned silence. Sister Martin gave me a look that could only be described as, “Oh, you poor child.”

Uproarious laughter. Ridicule. Untold, lasting embarrassment. I hated my parents, and I wasn’t too fond of Santa. The legend of the last kid to believe in Santa grew over time. My insensitive (mean spirited) older brothers told all who would hear that I was a Senior in High School at the time. I still hear about it every year.

***Safe to Read***

Editor’s note: For sake of economy of words and flow, future Reader Alerts will simply be *** placed at the beginning of the potentially harmful material with *** placed when it is safe to resume reading.

 The Characters: Me- Dad; Mom- Mom; Sarah- 7 year old daughter, high maintenance, gives credence to the theory of reincarnation as she frequently acts like a Medieval Queen of England; Matt- 6 year old son, easy-going, sneaky.

Starting point- Thanksgiving.

Mom was one of nine children, her Dad one of ten, and her Mom, one of nine. Thanksgiving at Grandma’s was closer to the Running of the Bulls than Thanksgiving dinner with the Waltons. (I always said Thanksgiving at my in-laws was why God invented football on TV on Thanksgiving Day.) Unfortunately, Sarah caught a TV commercial.

“Dad! That’s what I want for Christmas! An Easy Bake Oven! That’s what I’m going to tell Santa I want!”

It seemed harmless at the time, but in reality it was the launch pin for the immeasurable levels of stress, anxiety, and anguish to follow.

Reinforcement- School’s Breakfast With Santa.

“Dad! There’s Santa!”

“I see. Now eat your pancakes.”

Of course, it’s not anything close to PTSD, but seeing the source of years of torment does carry a certain flashback capability. It wasn’t just a moment to agonize over that terrible moment so many years ago, but it also awakened concerns over my own children’s Santa belief system. When do we pull the plug… oops, ***on the fantasy of the jolly old elf?*** I didn’t want my kids to suffer the same humiliation I endured, but I certainly didn’t want to take any of the magic of Christmas away. I’ll let Mom handle that one.

“And what do you want for Christmas, little girl?”

“An Easy Bake Oven.”

“Sure, we make those at the North Pole. What else?”

“Nothing. That’s it, just the Easy Bake Oven.”

That’s what’s called pressure. When a kid wants just one thing for Christmas, assuming it’s not something like a pony or one of the Jonas Brothers, it pretty well better be under the tree Christmas morning. If it’s not there, it’s more than just no Easy Bake Oven. It would also mean there was no Santa.

St. Nick’s- Warmup for the big event.

A first cousin to Santa is Saint Nick. They travel in much the same circles, that is, *** in the minds of children***, both work alone, they generally gain access to homes by the same methods, and they both bring gifts. If St. Nick leaves goodies for the kiddies on December 6th, it is a certainty that Santa will show up at Christmas, and in this case, with an Easy Bake Oven.

We hung, with great care, the stockings on the fireplace, Mom, Dad, Sarah, and Matt. After Sarah and Matt were in bed, as I passed by the living room, I took a moment to admire the picturesque scene at the fireplace. What? There were five stockings hung- Mom, Dad, Sarah, Matt and…Bill. Bill? Who’s Bill? My six year old son had put up an extra, fake stocking! I told you he was sneaky!

I always had fill-the-stockings-with-candy duty. This was a real labor of love; one for Sarah, one for me; one for Matt, one for me. I think I could secure my own page in the Guinness Book of World Records for the number of little chocolate Santas consumed over a lifetime.

So, belief in Santa was fortified by the visit from St. Nick. The Easy Bake Oven was a sure thing. In the meantime, Matt, the sneaky greedy guy, was compiling his Christmas wish list with the help of newspaper ads, advertising flyers, a child’s safety scissors, a glue stick, Scotch tape, and the letters and words he had thus far mastered in the 1st Grade. He had firmly entrenched himself on the opposite end of the “Gimme” spectrum from Sarah- there wasn’t much that he objected to. Toiling nights and weekends, he had three legal size sheets of desired items, complete with pictures.

Christmas was always at our house. The place was perfect for it- a sledding hill and a small pond for ice skating and a fierce, take no prisoners, hockey game. As the day of the invading hordes was approaching, Mom was in full panic mode to make all things perfect for the celebration. I busied myself with praying for just the right amount of snow- enough for sledding but not too much to shovel at the freaking pond to make an ice rink. There were Christmas mornings when I felt like Dr. Zhivago trudging across the tundra as I wandered aimlessly pushing a shovel and cursing at vast amounts of snow while preparing the rink.

Factors that weigh heavily in my defense.

-I was extremely busy at work.

-I was tasked with preparing all things outdoors, repairing/replacing strings of lights (Note of educational value for the novice: If the box says if one light goes out the rest stay on, don’t believe it.), and most importantly, chopping and stacking wood for a bonfire. These were important, critical duties.

-Toys R Us was a huge place with oodles and oodles of toys. Any reasonable person could not be expected to consider the possibility this mecca of toys could run out of a something.

-There had been no media blitz on the scarcity of Easy Bake Ovens, as had been the case with the Cabbage Patch Kids or later with Tickle Me Elmo.

“Excuse me, sir, could you tell me where I’d find an Easy Bake Oven?”

“We’re all out of those.”


“We sold out of those a few days ago. You might try one of our other stores.”

“Your nearest store is like 20 miles from here.”

“Sir, you don’t have to tell me that. I work for Toys R Us.”

Shaken, stunned, panic…fear. I hadn’t thought of that. Oh, my God, I immediately pictured the look on my daughter’s face when she was smacked with disappointment on Christmas morning.

“Will you be getting more in?”


I quickly calculated in my mind the drive times to other possible Toys R Us locations.

“Could you call other stores to see if they might have it?”

“Sorry, I don’t have time to do that. I’m up to my ears in it today. Marge called in sick today so I’m doing double duty.”

Marge? Who the hell is Marge? My kid’s Christmas will be ruined because Marge is under the weather?

“You’re going to have to call around yourself. Sorry. Try Sears. I think they had them.”

Do I head for Sears, or go home and start making calls in search of an Easy Bake Oven? Sears, home? Sears, home? I was wasting time. I was mired in the quicksand of indecision. The stakes were so high. Sears, just ten minutes away.

“Excuse me, Miss, do you have the Easy Bake Oven?”

“I wish baking was easy.”

“No, the toy thing, for little kids to bake stuff with.”

“Is that safe for little kids?”

“I guess. It must be or they wouldn’t sell it. Do you have it here?”

“I never heard of it. I’m just filling in for Freddie. He called in sick today.”

You’ve got to be kidding me.

“I’m usually in Electronics. I’ll call someone.”

“Thank you.”

“Are you the guy looking for the Easy Bake Oven?”

“Yes, do you carry them?”

“Those things are really cool. Kids can actually bake stuff with them. I got one last year myself for my daughter. I get 10% off cuz I work here. She really liked it. Her favorite thing to make is chocolate brownies.”

“Great, do you have them?”

“No. We did, but they went fast. Sold out like two weeks ago. You should have planned ahead. We sure don’t want to disappoint the little ones at Christmas.

“No, I guess not.”

I was clinging to the hope that other Toys R Us stores, within reasonable driving distances, would have them as I raced home.

“Do you have the Easy Bake Oven, honey? I’d like to wrap it right away.”


“Uh…well, they seem to be out of them at Toys R Us.”

“Seem”, as if that would lessen the impact.

“They’re out of them?! I told you to get it like three weeks ago.”

Ouch. The painful arrow of an “I told you so” from a perturbed spouse.

“It will be ok. I’m sure another store will have them.”

“You better hope so, Buster.”

“Buster”, in this context, was not intended as a term of endearment.

This was pre-Internet searches, no Craigslist, no Facebook Marketplace, so I made repeated frantic phone calls.

Toys R Us #2- distance 20 miles-out. Toys R Us #3- distance 30 miles- out. Toys R Us #4- distance 50 miles- out. Toys R Us #5-distance 75 miles- out. Target- out. K Mart- out. Kohls- out. JC Penney-out.

Doomed. Time for me to consider other possible solutions to the looming problem.

Plan B.

“Honey, did you hear about the new electronic Battleship game? That sounds awesome. I bet that would be more fun than a stupid Easy Bake Oven.”

“No, I really just want the Easy Bake Oven. Santa is getting it for me.”

Plan C.

No, I guess a new real Amana range would be out oh the question. Mom would probably notice it in the kitchen right away.

Plan D.

Maybe this would be a good time to ***expose Santa for the fraud he is. “See, honey, no Easy Bake Oven! He let you down…because there is no Santa! Ha, joke’s on you!” One of life’s lessons learned the hard way!”*** Or, maybe I could tell her she was so naughty this year that Santa stiffed her. No, just some fanciful, mischievous musing.

 This was a serious problem. All Dads want to see happy, smiling faces Christmas morning. I had set my kid up for a fall.

The evening of the 23rd, more phone calls to all the same places. I added a couple of small, local hobby shops. Nothing. Considering all of the possible pitfalls life has to offer, whether a child gets an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas may not seem all that consequential, but it was.

I again tried to persuade her to embrace other possibilities. Sand Art kits, a box of magic tricks, a steerable two seater sled, Walkie-Talkies, no interest, more like disdain. I was in trouble.

The morning of the 24th. I called every store again hoping the person I spoke to the day before was mistaken. Struck out again.

I made my usual last minute Christmas Eve shopping trip. I bought some things that I thought might lessen the disappointment for my daughter, and grabbed a couple more things for Matt. He was easy to shop for. Regardless of whatever he asked for, he’d be excited and happy to get whatever he got. Seriously, I could give the kid a stick and point to a tree, and he’d have a good time.

When I returned home, my wife had a curious, impish smile on her face.

“You are so lucky.”

Hope restored?

“I talked to my sister. She still has the Easy Bake Oven she got for Molly a few years ago. It was used just one time, and she still has the box. She’s bringing it over.”

“Problem solved! We did it!”

The 4:30 P.M. Children’s Mass, then straight to my brother’s for a few hours of laughs, small talk, commiserating over the fortunes of our football teams, and feasting on a paucity of shrimp and an abundance of those little hot dogs. Back home, tuck the kids in bed, and join my wife on the sofa for a little relaxation before the next day’s chaos.

“What’s that on the fireplace screen?”

I checked it out. Matt had taped his three page list to the inside of the screen so that as soon as Santa made his landing, the first thing he’d see was his list. You gotta love that kid.

***I ate the cookies the kids had put out for Santa and then made footprints in front of the fireplace using ashes on a boot. Kids are so gullible.***

I couldn't help but notice the little pillows on every step as I headed upstairs. We told the kids Santa might not show up if they slept downstairs, so they were prepared to go into full stealth mode to catch Santa in the act. Man, I wish those days could've lasted forever.

Christmas morning. Sarah opened the present from Santa, the elusive Easy Bake Oven. She was happy so I was happy. Best darn present I ever got.

November 22, 2022 03:49

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Marty B
05:33 Nov 28, 2022

Getting the perfect gift is so stressful! I have thought about this myself- 'Or, maybe I could tell her she was so naughty this year that Santa stiffed her.'


Murray Burns
20:31 Nov 28, 2022

I learned my lesson with the Easy-Bake Oven. The next year I learned to never wait until Christmas Eve to put together a toy that needed assembly.,, and to never believe the words "Easy to Assemble". Thanks for reading it and for you comments.


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Edward Kennedy
06:57 Nov 28, 2022

The Popeye reference...YES! Loved it. Very well written.


Murray Burns
20:48 Nov 28, 2022

Growing up, my next door neighbor looked more like Popeye than Popeye looks like Popeye, Balding, mouth a little out of whack, and working at a foundry he had massive forearms. Maybe that's why I've always been in tune with the Popeye character. Thanks for reading it and for your comments.


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Susan Catucci
00:36 Nov 27, 2022

Hahaha - a gift of a story. Your ending was the perfect wrap-up. (The tension though, as a parent, once you've experienced it, never goes away and I confess there were parts I skimmed over to avoid the discomfort) Hahaha - again, well done!


Murray Burns
18:22 Nov 27, 2022

I learned my lesson that Christmas. I also learned to NEVER wait until Christmas Eve to put a toy together that required assembly. "Easy to Assemble" is one of the great marketing lies of our time. I appreciate your reading it and your comments. Thanks.


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14:09 Nov 26, 2022

I loved many of the story-telling details, especially the tension building. You broke the 4th wall as a narrator appropriately. I felt the anxiety of the dad. My only suggestion would be to clean up the structure a bit. The details about the stores and miles could be on their own lines. The interjections with the asterisks *** were a little challenging to read as well. I like the idea behind them, but the structure impedes fluency in my opinion. Really good job with this. Keep up the good work!


Murray Burns
18:28 Nov 26, 2022

I think you're right. The stores and distances would have been better with their own lines. Thanks for reading it and your comments. I appreciate it.


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Rebecca Miles
06:07 Nov 26, 2022

How you played with the knowing/ not knowing; telling/ not telling was great fun for a reader. I loved how sometimes you deliberately let it slip ( that well placed " oops"). I'm British so I enjoyed all the American details just as a little cultural exchange thing. Do they actually sell real mini ovens for kids?! Or is my foreigness showing! Something like that would be helpful for all hardworking parents! This put me right in the lead up to the first big prep day, decking the halls. Thanks!


Murray Burns
15:03 Nov 26, 2022

Unfortunately, there is such a thing as the Easy-Bake Oven. More unfortunately, I once drove to a store 50 miles away on Dec. 24th to get one. It's like the dumbest thing in the world. Its heating element is a light bulb. My daughter used it once to crank out 2 soggy brownies. I still hate the guy who invented it. Though the means of getting my hands on the Easy Bake Oven is different in the story, everything else is true...including, most unfortunately, me being the oldest kid in recorded history to stop believing in Santa. I appreciate yo...


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Wendy Kaminski
01:57 Nov 25, 2022

Loved this! Thanks for the laughs (and the memories... :).


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Lily Finch
21:02 Nov 22, 2022

This is an excellent story of how parents get around the Christmas season when it comes to that one gift their children have their hearts set on. We just don't want to disappoint. I enjoyed the flow. The conflict was engaging, and the fix was well played. But a dad contemplating telling his daughter there is no Santa or that she was terrible and Santa stifled "you" sound horrible. Just goes to show where the mind goes when in desperation. The best part was what was going on in the dad's mind. Of course, the wife, hardly mentioned, saves t...


Murray Burns
00:48 Nov 23, 2022

Thanks, Lily. All the events are basically true so the story practically wrote it self!


Lily Finch
02:07 Nov 23, 2022

It read that way. LF6


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Jack Bell
08:09 Nov 22, 2022

Nice, zippy pace. Good build up of classic Christmas stress. Well-sketched comic characters, particularly Matt (I predict he'll go far!). By the time we get to plan D, Dad's almost losing it, quite hilariously, with his "mischievous musing". Part of me would have liked to have seen that mischief mined for more laughs -- but this is a Christmas story, and definitely needed the ending it had. It even had, for me at least, some pleasant notes of nostalgia. Nice job.


Murray Burns
18:44 Nov 22, 2022

Thanks. I appreciate the comments. It's basically all true...with some exaggeration on the search for the Easy Bake Oven...the embarrassment in school over Santa, the "Bill" stocking, the list inside the fireplace screen...even my brother skimping on the shrimp. (I just reminded him of that last night.) The story wrote itself. Thanks.


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Wally Schmidt
05:44 Jan 03, 2023

Susan Waters got an Easy Bake oven. Her father was a doctor so she got the good gifts. I was a year older and skeptical about baking a cake using the heat from a lightbulb. But we used that Easy Bake every day after school to make snacks and whenever I think about Susan today, I think about that Easy Bake oven. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. When my kids were small, I refused to step foot in Toys R Us (or as my husband calls it "Toys R Sure Costing Us" ) on the grounds that it would ruin any Christmas spirit I might have. We were lu...


Murray Burns
14:19 Jan 03, 2023

"Toys R Sure Costing Us"...perfect. In my household, my crusade to acquire the Easy Bake Oven involved substantially more hours than the time my daughter spent using it- once...which only added to my frustration...and regret...for waiting until the last moment to get a Christmas present. That was lesson #1. Lesson #2 was learned the very next year when I suffered the consequences of waiting until late Christmas Eve to assemble a toy. Lesson #3 was discovering the words "Easy to Assemble" were a lie. Here's an interesting tidbit on kids and t...


Wally Schmidt
14:55 Jan 03, 2023

LOL -Once?!?! That should have been the punchline. "Easy to Assemble"-I learned that one as a kid, waiting through the assembly of not only my gift, but all of the siblings's gifts as well. Especially when it came with the realization that 'batteries are not included' and we did not have the right size and....remember when stores were closed on Christmas? And the onlyPlan B was waiting until the next day when they opened? Sad about your grandson, but on the bright side, maybe he can be reprogrammed. 😏


Murray Burns
19:40 Jan 03, 2023

OMG...I forgot about "Batteries Not Included" ! In the tiny print. Undoubtedly part of the sinister plot of toy companies to inflict feelings of guilt on parents as they watch their kids gaze at presents that are useless to them Christmas that the guilt ridden parents will buy even more stuff for their kids to atone for their sins. Unfortunately, I've been there too.


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Tommy Goround
11:14 Dec 08, 2022

Much applause for this theme: when to kill the magic? I gave my girls around five years, making sure that I didn't get too close to the "8-year benchmark where a child's values will continue for their life span." The chief concern was that they didn't put more faith in the Santa than the "Christ" in Christmas. I am grateful. It's been maybe 10 years since the first one was told that Santa is a historical person and that God still lives. My children tell me about their faith experiences as I drive them to two different schools and two di...


Tommy Goround
11:15 Dec 08, 2022

Merry Christmas


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Murray Burns
14:43 Dec 08, 2022

Merry Christmas to you as well. I loved your comments. "They believe". That's it. You either believe or you don't. You're not going to prove anything to anyone, and believers certainly don't need to. A friend of mine once explained it this way- ""Spinach: You either like it or you don't. Faith: You either have it or you don't. That's why they call it the 'Gift' of faith." Would that we all had it. We sent our kids to a faith based school. The daily distractions, the time consuming's to easy to take your eye off the big pi...


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