I have been the Pfister’s Narrator-in-Residence for just shy of three months. In that time, I have made homemade chai, the tea of my ancestors, nine times and shared it with more than one hundred and fifty people. People from all over the world. People from Milwaukee. People from the Pfister.
I often get asked “What does chai have to do with writing— with being the Pfister’s Narrator?” Chai is a way of life. A way of living. It is an art.
In Indian homes, chai is a moment to sit, rest and catch up with guests or loved ones. On the streets, it is a moment to say “hello” or in hindi, “namaste” which translated means “I bow to the divine in you.” It warms the belly and the heart. And always comes with a smile and with that smile, a story.
They were the first. Almost too early as I was still setting up. But ever so patiently and with the kindest of smiles they waited for me to pour their chai, add and stir the sugar (with their permission of course) and place a homemade vanilla, shortbread cookie, compliments of Pastry Chef Travis and his team, on their plates.
His name is Jeremy and hers, Emily. They sat at the very small gold, whimsical & playful, ‘Alice-in-Wonderland’ table, that I had carefully set with three tea cups and a Pfister lobby rose. They are from Evanston, Illinois. Emily has been coming here since she was a little girl. Her parents used to bring them to Milwaukee for the Pabst Tour and they would always stay at the Pfister. It is her favorite hotel. So, of course. Years later, all grown up, married now, and on their way to the State Fair, the Pfister is where they had to stay.
She is tall, lean, and dressed in a delicate white. Her train is draped elegantly over her arm as her hand rests on the handle of a red suitcase. Last night she was a bride and he, a groom. Today, they are husband and wife.
Kayla works in the Pfister Spa. She has the most brilliant smile, dimples that light up her eyes and skin that glows. For nine weeks, she has said “no” to chai. But this week, despite her reservations and with a little nudging from Rosy (the artist-in-residence who has not missed a week), she said “yes.” She took the tiniest of sips, then a little more, until finally her eyes big and bright, she announced, “I like it. I really like it!”
And my heart smiled.
This is life. This is art. These are their stories, and mine.