It was clear Mary and Tim McDonough were having Date Night at the Lobby Bar. Snuggled closely on the couch in front of the fire, Mary cradled a glass of Shiraz and Tim held a Sambuca with three coffee beans. Engrossed in quiet conversation, they paused only to laugh.
Of course, the only element missing from this romantic scene was a complete stranger with a serious case of the chatties. And so I provided that.
“Hi, I’m the new Pfister Narrator. Can I pull up a chair?”
They might have politely told me to get lost, but when I explained what I was doing, Mary’s entire face lit up.
“We love the Pfister!”
Their love affair with the hotel began 25 years ago, when they were first married and came as guests of Mary’s parents.
“Has it really been 25 years?” Mary asks Tim.
“It has,” he says, smiling, and then to me: “Our 25-year wedding anniversary is in October.”
Fulfilling Guido Pfister’s vision for the hotel he would plan but not see finished in 1893, the McDonoughs treat the commons areas of the hotel as Milwaukee’s living room, regularly entertaining groups of couples they recruit to join them from all around the city.
The McDonoughs’ visits to the Pfister ceased for a stretch of time during The Baby Years. The couple has three children: twin boys who are now 22 and a daughter, 19.
All of the children play piano and so when they got a little older, it was a special treat to visit the lobby and listen to long-time pianist Dr. Jeffrey Hollander.
“We would give him $5 and request ‘Clair de Lune’ – the kids loved ‘Oceans 11’ – or our wedding song, ‘Love Is Here to Stay,’” said Mary, her sparkly eyes softening with wistfulness.
Tim took their daughter to dinner dances at the Pfister when she was a little girl and they celebrated, with Mary’s parents, their sons’ high school graduation at the hotel in 2009.
The boys have since graduated from college and plan to move to New York which, coincidentally, is where Tim and Mary met a lifetime ago.
“We met in a bank and the rest is history,” Tim says.
The opening of the Mason Street Grill was significant to the McDonoughs’ social life and it now officially has their favorite happy hour in the city. They often share small plates of food or split a hamburger.
“We’ve explored many of the happy hours in the city and Mason Street’s the best,” says Mary. ”And we love coming Downtown.”
Tim owns a printing company on the far West Side and often works until 6, so the fact that Mason Street’s happy hour goes until 7 is particularly appealing. They now come about twice a month.
“It’s our little get away,” says Mary. “It feels like New York. And we love New York, because we lived there, and now our boys are going to live there.”
Their sons, who are identical twins, plan to work for different companies but both on Wall Street. One will do equity research and the other investment banking. Parenting twins, it sounds, is a truly unique experience.
“I could text them the same question and they could be in two separate places and I will get almost identical responses. It’s crazy,” says Mary. “And yet, even though they are identical, they are really different, too.”
“The hardest thing about being a mother to identical twins is there isn’t a moment you aren’t feeling a little bit worrisome for the other twin. It’s not the same as siblings or ‘Irish twins’ (siblings born in the same calendar year). Whether they play basketball or golf there’s always one that’s going to do better, even if it’s minuscule, there’s always a comparison even though you don’t want there to be.”
There’s a few seconds of silence. Mary takes a sip of her wine. I absorb the aftermath of her honesty, something beautiful and rare in the world of motherhood.
“I hope I did a good job with them,” Mary goes on to say, speaking from a place of love and doubt that every mother harbors.
Tim chuckles and says softly, “Oh, you have.”
Although the McDonoughs have never stayed overnight at the Pfister, it might be in their future plans. If their daughter gets married someday, they hope to have the ceremony or reception at the Pfister.
And there’s that 25 year anniversary coming up …