Scenes from a Life: Suzy Homemaker

The Colorado History Museum in Denver curated a wonderful Toys of the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s exhibit. Yips and laughs and sighs of nostalgic recognition came from every adult in the room. An easel displayed a question: What is the one toy you always wanted…and never got?

When I was in kindergarten, I passionately coveted a Suzy Homemaker oven. I don’t remember the ads that put this idea in my head. They must have run during the Mickey Mouse Show or morning cartoons. My kindergarten teacher gave us warning that we would soon be making paintings of the Christmas present we wanted most. I came home crying, because I had no idea how to draw the appliance of my eye, the oven of my heart.

My mother is a brilliant mathematician with artistic ability about a notch below the painting elephants of Bali. She can draw a snowman with three circular body parts. She can draw a cat—a snowman with ears replacing the top ball and a tail out to the side. And that’s her artistic vocabulary. It took all her concentration that afternoon to figure out how to draw a 3-D cube with 4 burners on top and a control panel and then teach the method to me. I practiced over and over at home. She still has the papers in a mildewed trunk. At school, with a thick brush in hand, I painted a portrait of the Suzy Homemaker Oven and prayed.

Did I get it? Sadly, no. My ever-practical mother told me I was welcome to use the real oven to make proper desserts. “Really? I’m allowed?” I asked. It wasn’t the same at all, but so began a lifelong love of baking cakes, pies, cookies, and other sweets.

Did I ever get over the disappointment? Sort of. When my four-year-old son Connor expressed his interest in baking, I gave him an Easy-Bake oven. My favorite birthday cakes of all came from that little purple and white light-bulb activated oven. Now he’s in graduate school, and I still have it. No regrets.