Hoppy Easter

Happy Easter!

No, no, I’m not a day late and a dollar short on the classic Easter greeting. This might be old news to most of you reading or listening to this since I know you’re all pure of heart and wise beyond measure, but Easter Sunday is special not only for the abundance of delicious hard boiled eggs and jelly beans, but also because it is the actual start of the Easter Season. I was a late learner about the actual Easter Season kicking off with Easter Sunday, something I was gently advised upon by a kind liturgical guide who never, ever admonished me for years of being an unrepentant heathen. Now I embrace the full majesty of the Easter season as it trails forward from that Sunday in spring when an industrious bunny rabbit litters carpets in homes with fake plastic grass while making deliveries of milk chocolate to good boys and girls across the land.

No trails of fake plastic grass were apparent in the Pfister lobby as I recently met a young rabbit kicking up her heels with her doting parents. My introduction was less than smooth, and this is where I embrace the fact that Easter is all about redemption and renewal.

“I couldn’t help but notice your pig ears,” I said as I introduced myself to Lindsay.

Smiling from the deepest place in her heart, Lindsay corrected me.

“These are my rabbit ears. For Easter.”

I tried to avoid turning a deep shade of red from embarrassment, and think I might have contained my humiliation to the sort of bright pink you might see on a newly dyed egg ready to be put into service for a hunt. Lindsay and her folks Joanne and Paul had come to the Pfister because Lindsay had faired particularly well in a weekend competition. Lindsay, it seems, is a dancer.

“In our competition we do tap, jazz, modern, hip hop…” The list continued on and on. Lindsay’s feet clearly have never failed her and her recent accomplishments had been awarded with a trophy. Her many achievements were now being enjoyed with her family at their favorite spot—the Pfister.

“This is a special place for us,” said Joanne, Lindsay’s mom. “It’s a place that has meant a lot to us over the years, and we come here as a family because everyone welcomes us so warmly.”

“The Pfister is a spot where we as a family can come and everyone can feel real comfort. Everything is good here,” added Paul. “We have become friends with so many of the staff…Mr. Roc, Mr. Peter, Ms. Helga.” Paul told me of the many tales the Pfister’s esteemed concierge staff have shared with his lovely family over the years, the sort of stories you share with friends near and dear to your heart.

I asked Lindsay what her favorite sort of dance was and she seemed to grow a few inches taller as she beamed back at me and said, “I love ballet.” Though she doesn’t perform ballet in her dance competitions, ballet is the basis for all she does as a dancer, the foundation upon which she builds her talents. It struck me on the cusp of Easter that this young woman wearing the set of floppy bunny ears had at an early, early age understood a very important fact of life. When you have a strong foundation, everything else in your life has a chance to flourish and grow.

I was curious about Lindsay’s long-term dreams as a dancer, but also the place where she would most like to take a few spins in the Pfister. I hope I get to see the answer to both of those questions come to life in years to come.

“I want to be a dancer for the Milwaukee Ballet, and dance through the Imperial Ballroom here at the Pfister,” said Lindsay. Her proud and loving parents looked on as this confident and charming young lass smiled from rabbit ear to rabbit ear. Ballet may be a good foundation for Lindsay’s future dreams, but it’s clear that she has any even stronger foundation in life. Their names, as you might have guessed, are Paul and Joanne, and they love their little bunny very, very much.

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A Pfister is Born

Here’s the thing about the Pfister: all of its history, thumb its massive holiday decorations, its formally dressed staff and its exquisite service can be intimidating, but in fact, the opposite is true. This morning, while having breakfast in a near-deserted café, I  felt like I was at home. The relaxed feel of a staff that was perhaps overwhelmed leading up to the holiday felt just like the relief I saw in my mother after all the Christmas morning wrapping paper was picked up, treatment the family fed and the naps started. The giant sigh of satisfaction and relaxation has overtaken the hotel and it feels like home.

It turns out the Pfister was indeed home to a handful of stranded travelers. Milwaukee had little snow, but a blizzard in the east held many captive in our area waiting for the chance to return. Many of them were pleasant and accepting of the situation and the idea of settling in for a long winter’s nap at the Pfister is one that felt enough like home to be accommodating.

In fact, The Pfister Hotel has served as a home base to many, including world traveler Mary Peterson. Originally from Beaver Dam, Mary, a producer for Good Morning America, now lives in New York. The nature of news is fast-paced and constantly changing so the rules require those involved must stay within 30 minutes of an airport, poised to leave at a moment’s notice (save for any prohibitive blizzards). Beaver Dam became a location Mary was unable to visit while working because it didn’t meet the rules and left her unable to respond to her job when required.

Like all of us, needing to be “home” prevailed and friends (and a fairly famous news anchor who, I’m thrilled to hear, ranks the Pfister on his top ten list of hotels) recommended the Pfister. Mary arranged to meet her mother there for Easter weekend in 2003 and together they enjoyed one another’s company at the home away from home that is indeed a quick cab ride to the airport.

The experience was so positive, the pair started arranging more visits together. For her mother, it was a quick drive from Beaver Dam for a “staycation;” for Mary, it met all the requirements of her workplace and travel needs. The more they gathered, the more they loved the space and the more it began to anchor their lives.

Easters grew into summer weekends, summer weekends turned into annual birthday celebrations. The convenience of the hotel was tested when we went to war with Iraq and Mary was called to respond and during Hurricane Katrina, Mary found herself flying out of Milwaukee’s airport to follow the breaking news.  

As her now husband courted her, he sent his flowers to…you guessed it, the Pfister. When they were married, more than 30 rooms full of New York friends and guests inhabited the Pfister and enjoyed the dinners and celebrations hosted there.

Anniversaries are now standard for the Petersons at the Pfister. I understand Mary’s story, I think we all do. Sometimes a place is there, waiting for us to give it meaning, to use it as our leaping off point. For the Petersons, the Pfister Hotel is just such a place. Woven into the fabric of their memories and adventures (Mary could mark her weekend stays at the hotel by dates of news events, family birthdays or anniversaries), The Pfister Hotel is a fixture in their lives.

This is true now more than ever, as the Petersons have named their third child Augustine Pfister Peterson. Clearly, home is where the heart is, or near an airport, or in your memories, or, in Mary’s case, at The Pfister Hotel.