Where Grandmas Get Noticed…

24 Dec, 2010

by Julie Ferris

What I like the most about public places—the kind that allow for you to slow down and engage, not the shop-till-you-drop big box stores or the endlessly-in-motion malls—is who you see gathering together there.

I was one of the few (well, that’s a lie, there were many, as I’m sure retailers had hoped) who shopped a bit on Christmas Eve. People were friendly, in the spirit, but the lines were long and tedious. People moved through with their carts and packages without noticing one another—I saw three near accidents involving pedestrians and reversing autos.

That’s not the way I prefer to encounter people, however. I smile at every clerk, I wave through merging traffic and I point out my parking spot to sharking vehicles full of shoppers waiting to disembark. But it’s no way to know someone.

We move so fast, sometimes, we forget to notice one another. As I chat with staff at the Pfister and watch families and office groups gather to celebrate the season, I’ve noticed something very important.

There’s significance to multi-generational gatherings and frankly, there are more of them. Now, I’ve been a part of a multi-generational family, I wouldn’t argue it’s unheard of.  Yet, when I watch groups at the Pfister, I notice that grandparents are younger, more engaged and often—are great-grandparents.

I watched a group of women sit down and enjoy a Christmas cocktail together and of the six of them, it was clear three generations were represented, but it was hard to tell which was a great aunt, which was a mother and which was grandma. The family resemblance in the women was uncanny and together, in their holiday reds and sequins, toasting their champagne cocktails, they were striking—a beautiful representation of women at all stages in life.

Another group of women included a grandmother— made clear as I spoke to them because the mother of the young ones referred to her as “mom.” Never did I hear “grandma” uttered, however. Rather “Gigi” was the term of endearment. Gigi could have been this fantastically stylish woman’s name, but the girls referred to her as a noun “well, OUR Gigi would like that…” It was clear that not only are generations sharing their knowledge and time with one another in slow, thoughtful, celebratory ways at the Pfister, but they’re young at heart, more engaged and less likely to be spotted as “Grandma.”

I mentioned that I often notice multiple generations coming together in the spaces at the Pfister and staff members have agreed with me. There’s some comfort in that perhaps we’re harkening back to a depression-era when families relied on each other and often lived together. And why wouldn’t we? Tough economic times have spurred what researchers call “boomerang kids” who leave the nest, only to return shortly thereafter. Whatever the technical term for enveloping our families in one space, sharing a common set of practices and closeness, it’s clear that there’s no better way to do that than at this historic space built around families and gatherings.

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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