Making waves at the Pfister

Posted by on Sep 28, 2013

When I found out I was named the new Pfister Narrator last April, I was super excited and couldn’t wait to share the news with my family. When I did, my 11-year-old son Kai River immediately asked, “Does the Pfister have a pool?”

I told them, yes, there was a pool on the 23rd floor. On his first visit to the hotel, he asked to see it. My partner showed it to him through the window in the locked door. From that point on, about every second or third or fourth day, Kai has asked if he could swim in the Pfister’s pool.

“Someday,” I said.

When my son was much younger, I called him “pescadito,” which means “little fish” in Spanish. He loved taking baths and wanted to stay in the tub for hours, filling and dumping containers with water, trying to sink rubber ducks. He later adored his swimming lessons and to this day, wants to swim at the Y more than anything else.

The really interesting part of this for me is that my water lover has such a “watery” name. “Kai” means “sea” in Hawaiian and his second first name, “River,” is obviously a water name, too.

I adopted my son from Guatemala when he was nine months old, and after I named him, I learned his birth mother’s name was “Marina,” another water name.

He has water in his bones. Water in his heart.

And now, so do I, even though I’ve never been much of a swimmmer. I get cold easily and I wear contacts which means I either take them out and am blind or I leave them in and risk losing one to the bottom of the lake, river, ocean, reservoir or pool. I do, however, love looking at Lake Michigan and spend a lot of time there, thinking or grieving or celebrating. “The lake listens,” I always tell people.

Last weekend, my son’s dream came true and he got to swim in the Pfister’s pool during our overnight stay at the hotel. I am so grateful to the Pfister for allowing my family to have this experience.

The pool is surrounded by glass and the view of the city, much like the view at Blu, is spectacular. It was a sunny, clear day and we could see for miles. My partner, a photographer, snapped photos madly.


But Kai River didn’t notice the view. Instead, he swam away, into a merman’s world. He was simply too immersed to notice the view, too busy diving for a rubber band, splashing his siblings and yelling, “cannonball!” before plunging beneath the shimmering blue surface.

This reminded me of conversations I’ve had with Pfister artist-in-residence Stephanie Barenz about the concept of “home.” This is a reoccurring theme in her art because for her, and others who live in different cities or countries during their lives, “home” sometimes becomes difficult to pinpoint.

Over the years, I have worried that my son, torn from his birth place and birth family, would question the true location of his home someday. But that afternoon, while watching him paddle and dive, I felt a momentary sense of peace wash over me.

Maybe his home is in the water.




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