One of my favorite things to do is toast and clink glasses. A simple “cheers” makes every gathering with friends feel like a celebration.
During a time when finances are tight and jobs may be scarce, celebrating seems harder to come by, which is why I get excited when I see others reveling in simple traditions or routines.
This weekend, college degrees were awarded all across the city. At the Pfister, one law school graduate and her family (a group of 14 in all) gathered in the lobby bar in twos and threes and when all were present and the honoree had arrived, glasses were raised (and a baby bottle too, if I recall) and a rousing “Here’s to Kate” echoed throughout the holiday décor.
Who couldn’t help but cheer her on? The room turned and smiled, all of us proud at both the accomplishment and the spirit of the family celebrating this achievement. Next to me, Sophie, Grace and their mother and grandmother were also celebrating…just being together.
The ladies have a holiday tradition of coming to the Pfister after seeing a show at First Stage Children’s Theater. After one of their first visits, Grace, awestruck in the grand foyer of the hotel, mentioned to her mother, “We should come here more often.”
The celebration is this: The girls go out to the theater, leaving a little brother at home, and then come to the Pfister to be fancy and elegant while eating a delicious cheese pizza at their regular table (sadly occupied on this day) in the lobby. Their mother let me know that the tradition was extending this year to taking the girls to tea on the day after the holiday. Both Sophie and Grace nodded energetically at the prospect of tea after my long-winded description of how fantastic the experience was for me and my girlfriends just a few weeks ago.
What I admired about the girls was the ease with which they made the day a celebration. They were simply happy to be there, happy to be a part of something they remember from last year, and happy to chatter on about what they’ve been learning in school, how they liked the play and, to quote the oldest daughter, recognize that “this pizza is intimidating!” (It was beautiful in its cheesiness, I must confess).
The group stayed long after the food was gone, took many a picture near the holiday tree and perused the art collection.
My celebration was the opportunity to sit with Kate on my left, a newly minted law degree awaiting her and Sophie and Grace on my right, reciting an amazing array of facts about the Statue of Liberty that they learned in their elementary schools, perhaps on their way to a degree in a few years as well. Sophie proclaimed with joy, while getting her coat, “Wow, we’ve been out all day long! It was morning when we left!” It’s that spirit of making every moment an adventure that I hope people bring to each clink of their glass when they mutter “cheers!”
A writer, actor, director and raconteur, West has written for various arts and architecture publications, been a commentator for WUWMs Lake Effect, and shares his opinions and insights on culture and the art of everyday life on his blog Artsy Schmartsy. He served as Head Writer for Wisconsin Public Radios Hotel Milwaukee, and his book Milwaukees Live Theater was published in 2009 by Arcadia Publishing as part of their Images of America Series. He most recently served as Director of Communications for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. West has been an active theatre professional for more than 20 years.
Along with his wife, opera director Paula Suozzi, and two daughters, Dorothea and Carmela, West lives in a cozy bungalow in Bay View, which he refers to as “the finest neighborhood in the world for beer gardens in lush parks, coffee joints, barbershops, record stores and pizzerias.” He can be identified by his signature bow tie.