Long-Lost Sisters

Though we weren’t able to meet face-to-face during her stay, Simone Ingram shared her story with me via email. Here is her incredible story, in her own words…

One day, I logged onto Facebook and had a message in my inbox asking if I had a dad named Dennis Michael Cudmore and a brother named Jean-Paul. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I read it and re-read it a million times and didn’t know what to do.

It was my sister Ciera who found me on Facebook. I never even knew I had a sister. That evening I called my brother and asked if he was sitting down and if he had a drink in his hand. He replied yes to both so I told him the news – it looked like we had a sister in America. My sister Ciera DesJardins has a two-year-old little girl and just got engaged. We were both speechless. Ciera had been looking for us for as long as she could remember. Neither of us knew our father, she only knew about us from what her mum had told her, for which I shall be eternally grateful.

For the past three years, Ciera and I have mailed each other regularly and tried to Skype once, but we kept losing connection. I have been desperate to meet her since she first got in touch with me. This past year on my Christmas list, I put that I would like to meet my sister.  On Christmas Day, after we had opened our presents, my husband said that he had one more thing for me. I had always wanted to have a nice English afternoon tea at the Ritz and had mentioned this on numerous occasions, so when he gave me an envelope I thought, this is it, my tea at the Ritz.  I opened the envelope and could not believe what I saw, he had organized for the two of us to fly to Milwaukee for a week to meet my sister. As you can imagine the tears flowed with happiness and I just could not stop smiling.

My husband Ian had arranged everything with Ciera, she was in on it all along. Ian said that because this was to be a trip of a lifetime,  he had chosen a very lovely hotel for us to stay in. And The Pfister sure was lovely.  I had never been to America before. I’m from a small town called Barnstaple in Devon, England so to see everything supersize blew my mind away at times.

Ciera and I met at the airport. We just hugged and giggled nervously – my husband filmed it all. We spent the week together getting to know each other and finding out we have similar ways, likes and dislikes – neither of us like mushrooms or anchovies. Someone actually said we looked alike, in our smiles. We were both delighted, as I am 20 years older than Ciera – she’s only 23.

We also took a trip to Chicago, which for me was very special, as our dad lived in Chicago. The last known address I had for him was in Hinsdale, Illinois. Before I met Ciera, I always wanted to go to Chicago to see if I could find him.  Walking along looking at the sites side by side with my sister filled my heart. Knowing I was in the same city and walking the same paths he may have walked was enough. I had flesh and blood with me. In my mind and heart I confirmed I would never ever let this young girl be apart from me again. I felt warmth and love that only blood can produce.

My dad left England when I was about five. He was a top hairdresser and worked with Vidal Sassoon. My mum had always said he was a very talented hairdresser. Sadly though since he left England, I have only seen him once when I was 16. We exchanged letters on a regular basis but one day about 10 years ago, the letters stopped and we’ve heard nothing since. Ciera has never seen him, she has only spoken to him once on the phone. We are not sure if he is alive or passed on. A sad side to our story.

Everyone at the Pfister was so friendly, warm and welcoming. We felt like royals and particularly enjoyed time sat by the open fire listening to the wonderful pianists. And the breakfasts were to die for, they kept us going throughout the day. The hash browns are nothing like the ones we get, yours are much nicer. I also got my afternoon tea! We shared afternoon tea in Blu and it was a lovely – wonderful tea, beautiful food, fantastic harpist, and outstanding view, all capped off sat next to my sister, just perfect.

We had a very special week which was over too fast.  It was sad to leave Ciera, her fiancé Ross and my niece. We vowed we would both start to save so we could visit again. We had a few tears when we left, and  when I landed in England I had more again, as I felt so far away from her. I would love for Ciera to come to England so I can show her her roots and I know my brother would love to meet her too. I would also love my two girls to meet their auntie, uncle and cousin.

Ian, Ciera and Simone
Ian, Ciera and Simone

 

 

 

 

Going Live…

I promised endless gushing about the Business Journal’s Book of Lists event, sovaldi and I will deliver. As I mentioned before, a number of things resonated for me in that transformed ballroom, but the importance of human interactions ranks highest.

In my professional and personal life, I spend my time managing a number of social media accounts and projects. I tell friends to email or text me because I hate talking on the phone. What’s worse, cheap something about the technology or the design leaves me completely unable to hear on a cell phone. By canceling my land line and relying solely on the device I can only manage when not using it as it was primarily intended, I’ve cut myself off from people. It’s not what I meant to do, but it is the sad result. I exist in bits and bytes…unless we’re face to face.

I am the embodiment of the cliché, “a people person.” For me, that means I talk to people in the elevator, I smile at strangers, I’ll tell you when there’s something in your teeth. I tell random people on the street or in the halls “I like your shoes” or “Blue is really your color!”

I have grown frustrated when people don’t get it or don’t like this innocuous attempt at interaction. I fear becoming like them. And, since I’ve begun this opportunity at the Pfister, it has completely renewed in me faith that most people can and do interact and a smile and hello is all it takes. In fact, I think the friendly, social people of the world are drawn to the hotel.

Circulating at this business function reminded me of how important this interaction is. Humans are social creatures, but we are spending our days managing Enterprise 2.0 and Web 2.0, watching for the ROI of our online ads while letting news find us and following resumes on LinkedIn and chasing relatives on Facebook. Sticking with clichés, if I had a nickel for every social media seminar or coaching class being offered…

At the Business Journal event, however, one truly crossed a bridge. Though it was beautiful décor, its metaphor wasn’t lost on me. There was a charm to capturing the Orient in the evening’s theme and the rich quality of a “time back when” and a “different era” seemed to envelop us. What’s more, businesses created engaging booths and interactive displays, as I was told “people don’t just walk up to your business display anymore, they have to be engaged.”

I saw people mingling and engaging booths; laughing and bumping into each other—literally—as we shared this beautiful space with other humans, not avatars. People enjoyed it. People were talking, laughing and sharing stories. In one group I talked to, we learned we were all musicians and joked about starting a band. It was a throw back to another time, where MeetUp was an action, not a website.

We think social media is dynamic because it grows and changes so fast and messages come at us at such high velocities. But it was clear at the Pfister that the paradox of business may be that mastering Facebook is necessary; and skillful face time is an ancient art.

Moved by Memories

The holidays often make people nostalgic. Smells, capsule 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.