This is the story of a journey from the North Pole. It is not my journey, but I am at the emotional center of it. More important, I funded the journey, and consequently I would like to get some credit—or at least some frequent-flyer miles—for making it happen. It is a holiday tale and, true to its genre, it is a tale of overcoming the odds to make one little girl’s Christmas wish come true.
Our story begins on a boat. The boat was anchored off the coast of Croatia, in August several years ago. It was a massive cruise ship occupied by 1,000 gay men, plus me, my straight husband, and our then 4-year-old daughter, Frances. I was the headline entertainer on this cruise, and my family was along for what was clearly going to be a delightful trip. Despite being the polar opposite of the key demographic for a gay vacation cruise, Frances was in her princess phase and was a hit in her ruby slippers. When I wasn’t rehearsing for my cruise-ship star turn, we went to drag bingo, ate a lot of gelato, and took an excursion to Pompeii, where we learned that the Greco-Romans invented pretty much everything we take credit for, before getting buried in volcanic ash.
Anyway, in her downtime, Frances the Princess watched television in her stateroom. There, she espied a commercial for the greatest thing she’d seen in her young life: the Snow White Kitchen. The commercial cut in and out through the snowy offshore reception, and it was in Croatian. Didn’t matter. The product rose above its presentational limitations; rustic and folksy, this was no ordinary play kitchen. It was diminutive, of course, for the Seven Dwarfs, and included a cauldron, a poisonous apple, and several mugs for grog. It had a little diamond from the mine where the Dwarfs work, and when you pulled on it, you heard a Bavarian tune. Based on the action in the commercial, it was very hard not to yodel and do a Virginia reel in this kitchen. Frances was in—so much so that she made the greatest sales commitment known to a 4-year-old: “Santa is going to bring me that kitchen,” she announced.
It was cute, but obviously she was going to forget because … she was four. And August is a long time from December. By then she’d want a goldfish or something.
I was very busy that fall. Christmas was upon me before I knew it.
Now, I genuinely care about Holiday Hooplah. My husband … does not. He contributes to the season in exactly one way, and that is via his annual “Quaker Freakout” every Christmas Eve at around 1 a.m., wherein he denounces our consumerism while assembling something. All this is to say that two Mondays prior to Christmas, I pulled every resource from within and decorated the house. One Monday prior, I prompted Frances to mail a letter to Santa. And that is when I made the discovery that my child has a freakish ability to focus, because her letter consisted of a single, clear request: the Snow White Kitchen.
OK, fine. Easy. Someone call the Disney Store.
Except. Disney doesn’t carry the Snow White Kitchen. The Snow White Kitchen is made by a French toy company. Disney licensed their folkloric retelling back to the Old Country, whence the tale came. A modern economic twist.
We were eight days out. I went into full-blown Present Panic. I enlisted my husband, who enlisted Amazon, who enlisted Amazon.de (which translates to Amazon.Germany), where we discovered one Snow White Kitchen—not available for purchase with an American credit card. We weighed the options. We could fly to Germany. Or take our chances on Santa’s existence. Or, wait, we could call my childhood best friend, Sasha, who lives in Munich. We could wire her the money, she could order the kitchen with her German credit card and ship it overnight international—$8 million and done.
Except. Sasha was leaving for the holiday before the kitchen would arrive. She could order it, but she needed to ship it to someone who could ship it to us. Ideally, someone in France, close to the factory.
Every story has an unsung hero. In this one, it is my friend Dan. Also, it is Timothy Hutton, whom I’ve never met but for whom Dan worked, and who probably doesn’t know the instrumental role he played in this saga. Actually, it is Timothy Hutton’s French wife. More specifically, it is Timothy Hutton’s French wife’s parents, who lived … just down the road from the French factory that produces Snow White Kitchens for the children of the world.
So the Kitchen made its journey via Amazon Germany, with Sasha’s credit card, to Timothy Hutton’s French wife’s parents, who, for reasons I will never understand, shipped it on to me, just in time for its 1 a.m. Quaker-Freakout-assembly on Christmas Eve. That, my friends, is the Spirit of Christmas.
I won’t tell you what the kitchen cost as a result of its journey, but we probably could’ve commissioned a handcrafted Bavarian version for about the same fee. I will tell you that Kitchen lasted for years. (Because of the cauldron, it repurposed easily to Pioneer, Harry Potter, and Volcanic Pompeii scenarios, and thus survived many children.) That Kitchen was so magical, it may as well have come from the North Pole.
Most important, you have never seen a happier little girl than Frances that Christmas morning.
Ana Gasteyer‘s holiday album, Sugar & Booze, is out now.