Moved by Memories

23 Nov, 2010

by Julie Ferris

The holidays often make people nostalgic. Smells, lighting, seasonal images…all of it can take you back to a specific moment in time. Making memories is a big part of who we are and even though we live in a world of saved images and digitally infinite Facebook messages and Gmail chats it’s comforting to know that our mind will always preserve the best and most important moments in our lives.

Roc, a long-time concierge at the Pfister, can tell you a million stories about memories. His are, of course, of guests and interactions and moments he’s been lucky enough to share, but one he told me recently moved me to tears. Every April, a woman returns to the Pfister. She comes in to have breakfast on a Sunday morning and revealed to Roc that the breakfast is more than simply physical nourishment to her—it feeds her heart, her memory.

You see, this distinguished patron was married at the Pfister Hotel in 1942 and she and her lovely groom woke the next morning to share their first breakfast together in the hotel as husband and wife. Then, her beloved shipped off to the Great Lakes Naval Station and took his place in the war and dutifully gave his life. His new bride never saw him again.

When I was little, I remember my dad telling stories one night about being a young boy, sliding down a hill with his brothers. His eyes filled with tears and he grew quiet. I asked him what was wrong and he simply said “I’m sorry, I was eight years old again for a minute there. I was gone.” That’s when I learned how memories could work on you, how they could sustain you and bring you to life. Sadly, for my father, though, many places he spent his youth are gone—torn down, rebuilt, destroyed by fire or the elements in a small town unable to save or preserve them.

The ever-young war bride returns annually, however, to relive this vivid memory in her life, this scene of smells and lighting and images. That a mind–a memory–can preserve for that long is a wonderful reminder that in our hectic, 140 character micro-blogging world, we as people still have the ability to treasure the important moments that we have been a part of. It doesn’t take hash tags or photo captions to do it, either. Merely the scene, the staff, the ways of being in the Pfister can call this memory into a lived moment again.

It’s with a twinge of jealousy on behalf of my dad that I think of her annual opportunity. I can’t imagine what she must feel when she walks through the lobby each year, but I do think it’s amazing that the Pfister still stands and opens its doors to her every spring.

About the author

Julie Ferris

Julie is a devout Iowa Hawkeye fan despite her new Wisconsin roots, loves to read and is a sucker for good creme brulee and bad puns.

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