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, 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.