By Faith Ellestad
The year I was six, my big brother, who was seven, introduced me to the Sears Christmas Catalog, A Complete Guide to Children’s Avarice. He had learned to read using the Sears Catalog, (gen-u-ine sim-u-la-ted lea-ther base-ball glo-ve) and helpfully instructed me in its use. Thoroughly exploring the pages in the “girls’” section, I discovered a real, working child sized stove with miniature cake mixes and pans so you could make tiny, real cakes and cookies. It actually heated up to 350 degrees, a dangerous but not unusual reality for toys in the 50s. That was it for me. I knew I had to have that stove. I needed it.
As a little girl I loved playing house with my dolls. I had a sizeable collection of baby and little girl dolls, most of whom sported crew-cuts due to my older sister’s penchant for “styling” their hair. They came with all sorts of furniture, including cribs, high chairs, clothes, and accessories. I had bottles and dishes and a tiny china tea set, but I longed for a kitchen to prepare our parties. My sister, probably as penance for styling all my dolls to resemble a platoon of miniature GI Janes, helped me fashion some appliances out of cardboard boxes since I was considered too small to use the real ones. I had accepted this as an unfortunate but incontrovertible state of affairs up until I saw the little stove. I wasn’t sure my parents would approve, so I didn’t mention it to anyone. I had developed a clever plan on my own.
Mom and Dad had promised to take us to visit Santa a few days before Christmas. And the older kids, exercising unusual restraint, had managed to keep the origin of Santa a secret from my little brother and me. I suspect in my case, it was so they could tease me mercilessly after the holidays. But at the time of the visit, I was still a wide-eyed believer, and leaning against Santa’s knee, I divulged my secret desire. To my parents’ extreme dismay, and my total delight, Santa promised he would bring me my stove.
The wait seemed endless, but Christmas morning finally arrived. At approximately dawn, my siblings and I awoke on cue, and raced into the living room, buzzing with excitement, like four greedy little bees. Mom and Dad, still bleary-eyed from their marathon, post-Midnight Mass gift-wrapping session, quickly started some coffee and settled in to enjoy the show. Santa had come and delivered mounds of packages, one of which was very large, gaily wrapped in festive Christmas paper, and adorned with a big green bow. It had to be for me, Santa would know my favorite color was green, but I checked the tag just to be sure. “To Faith from Santa.”
I knew it! I ripped the paper off, and there it was, my promised electric stove, its gleaming white surface reflecting the multicolored lights of the tree. It looked exactly like the picture in the Sears Catalog. I remember stroking it and touching every accessory. I was beside myself. Everyone else’s gifts paled in importance compared to my glorious real appliance.
After all the presents were opened, which seemed to take forever, I plugged in my new stove, excitedly anticipating baking my first tiny real cake, While I waited, mesmerized, for the little preheat light to turn red, a strange hot waxy smell suddenly permeated the living room, and gooey purple liquid began to ooze out the bottom of my oven door. As everyone watched in stunned disbelief, the explanation of this bizarre occurrence became evident almost immediately, given away by the excited squirming of my little brother. In the midst of the present opening frenzy, he had, unnoticed by anyone, decided to cook something. From his brand new box of Jumbo Crayolas, scattered about on the rug, he had selected Purple and popped it into the oven. While the stove heated to the promised 350 degrees, Tommy’s crayon melted spectacularly, forming an indelible, wide, drippy purple stain down the front of my formerly pure white stove.
Furious and horrified, I impulsively did the worst thing I could think of in the moment. I told him his new tricycle was second hand! Being three, he didn’t care a bit, and wasn’t even given the spanking I thought he deserved. Fortunately my beloved stove, even with its newly acquired purple stain and slightly waxy scent, worked perfectly, turning out tiny cakes and cookies, and burning many small fingers, throughout my house-playing years. As I think of it now, I should have become a better cook. But my inch-wide Snickerdoodles were the best ever. Grandma said so. Grandmas know these things.
Thank you “Santa” for that wonderful stove, and for the valuable lesson you imparted: if you take your kids to visit Santa, go well before your Christmas shopping is done.
© 2018 Faith Ellestad
Faith describes herself as a serial under-achiever, now retired after many years as a hospital scheduling specialist. When her plan to cultivate a gardening hobby resulted only in hives, she decided to get real and explore her long-time interest in creative writing. She’s so happy she did. Faith and her husband live in Madison, WI with Ivy, their beloved old Belgian Tervuren. They have two grown sons, (also beloved), and a wonderful daughter-in-law.