When I was four, all I wanted for Christmas was a Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven. I told my parents, my grandparents, and anyone else who would listen.
At the time, I didn’t know what being poor was, or that the chances of getting an Easy Bake Oven were slim and none.
I remember that Christmas vividly because that was the year I broke my leg because of peas.
My younger sister hated peas. Did I say hate? I mean, she abhorred peas. She would sit in her highchair for hours after everyone else had finished eating, with a spoonful of cold, hard peas swimming in congealed butter upon her plate. Defiant and ornery, she would fall asleep, her face resting on the flowered child’s plate, while those peas slowly decayed beside her.
My mother or father would eventually pick her up, wash the butter from her face, and put her to bed. Then once again, they would scrape the peas from her plate into the garbage disposal.
This little ritual happened about once a week, or sometimes twice if my parents were in the mood for a replay, or, when there had been a recent sale on frozen peas.
What does this have to do with my broken leg and an Easy Bake Oven? Well, that year, 1966, we had Thanksgiving at my grandparent’s home, and guess what they served as a side dish?
So, while the rest of the family was watching Turkey Day Football, I was given the duty of watching my little sister not eat her peas.
We tried to figure out a way to hide them in her napkin, or maybe in the bottom of her glass of milk? Maybe I could sneak them into the fridge with the rest of the leftovers?
But, no. Our older brother was sent to check up on us, and we never knew when he might sneak in and catch us.
You may ask why didn’t I just eat the peas for her?
Go ahead and ask, I’ll wait . . .
Because I didn’t like peas either! I had learned early on, that if I mixed the peas with my mashed potatoes and covered them with gravy and dressing, it killed the taste of those foul despicable orbs. There was no way in heck I was going to eat her cold, nasty, little green circles of grossness covered in coagulated butter!
While the Dallas Cowboys pulled themselves out of obscurity, I watched my little sister play peaball—kind of like hockey, but with peas and a fork.
To entertain myself, I leaned back in my chair while holding the table to keep from falling over. You know, you’ve all done it. Your mom told you not to, but when they weren’t looking . . .
My grandparents had an L-shaped, diner-type, yellow Naugahyde covered booth built into the corner of their kitchen. It was so cool. Seating for up to six adults, plus two matching chairs that made enough room for eight. To enter the booth, you simply pulled the table out and slide around the seat. It was mounted on a pedestal allowing the top to slide out about eight inches in any direction.
I was sitting in one of the chairs with its cute yellow Naugahyde skirt running around the base of the cushy seat. Four ornately turned wooden spindles held up a matching, cushiony back.
Being four, and still pretty bendy, I sat upon my right leg, using my left leg to keep my balance if I leaned back too far. Bored to tears, I leaned my head back, most likely brainstorming on how to get rid of those darn peas.
Well, my fat head must have tipped the balance because next thing I knew, the table slid, I pulled forward, only for the table to slide even more. I overbalanced and slammed head first into the Sparkletts water cooler that stood against the kitchen wall behind me. I was staring up at the ceiling and all I saw were white stars floating in a sea of red that should have been the yellow-painted ceiling of Nana’s kitchen.
And there was pain.
Then my sister’s giggles.
I can’t move!
She’s laughing at me?
What should I do?
Cindy sure isn’t going to yell for help, she’s too busy giggling at my cute trick.
So, I screamed. I screamed like only a four year old who thinks she’s dying can scream. You know, that high-pitched, I’m being murdered scream?
A stampede of feet followed, and I became the center of every adult in the house’s attention. My mother tried to lift me and I screamed again. My grandfather lifted the chair, and my mother untangled my mangled leg. She told me later that my calf was bent in two places, and when she pulled it out, it snapped back into place. She always shivered when she spoke of it.
All I knew was pain. “Is it bleeding?” I asked between my sobs. That much pain had to have gallons of blood to go with it, right?
“No, honey. You’re not bleeding.”
Ride to the hospital in my mother’s arms. My dad driving my grandpa’s 1965 Ford Ranchero.
Nurses with their little white caps.
Woke up with a cast from mid-thigh to mid-foot.
Not allowed to walk on it.
Man . . .
And that thing itched! Clothes hangers, fly swatter, Barbie’s legs, whatever would reach. I would have shoved my cat down there if he had fit!
Shortly after that day, we went to the Los Angeles Zoo. My mother pushed me around in a stroller and we left a plaster mark wherever we went as my heel dragged along the ground. If we got lost, we simply looked for the chalk mark and knew we’d been that way. Hansel and Gretel would have face-palmed.
I’ll leave out the gory details of what punishments I received when I disobeyed the doctor and my parents by walking on my cast . . . I was four, alright?
They threatened me with not getting what I wanted for Christmas, and that was worse than any spanking.
Santa was watching.
So, I crawled.
It was torture.
When we went to see Santa that year, I balanced precariously on his lap and placed my order, “One Easy Bake Oven, please?”
When Santa interrogated me as to my past behavior, I assured him that I had been good all year. Smiling sweetly with fingers crossed behind my back.
Christmas morning finally came.
I walk-crawled from my room without fear of punishment—no way my parents would be up at the crack of dawn on Xmas day—and what to my wondering eyes did appear?
A shiny yellow Easy Bake Oven!
I was so excited! I grabbed my new toy and crawled to my parent’s room. “Look what Santa brought me!”
I was the happiest kid in the world that day. My sister and I baked all kinds of fun stuff in that thing. Most of it was gooey in the middle, but we were two and four, we had no patience for cooking times. 100 watt bulbs just aren’t that efficient!
Oh, and thirty-some years later, my mother confessed that she hated peas and never ate them. I was flabbergasted!
Her answer when I asked why she made my sister eat them? “Because my parents made me.”
Oh, the irony!
Mom never admitted it, but I highly suspect that it was pure guilt that got me my Easy Bake Oven that year.
Carde is a member of Romance Writers of America, and has completed three novels which she is seeking to publish. She worked as a proofreader and camera operator for a small printing company, and was an editor for several local and statewide newsletters. Carde Jean is now retired and living in Hawaii with her husband on a one acre hobby farm. They have seven children, nine grandchildren, one dog, one cat, fourteen bunnies, and numerous chickens and ducks.