So what if it was 29 degrees outside and indoor reservations for a birthday bash of 30 or more were never going to happen?
It wasn’t going to hold back the 104-year-old guest of honor.
Birthday girl Nioma “Gigi” Eisen was ready to party, and if that meant gathering in and around a sharply appointed heated igloo outside Hometown Coffee and Juice in Glencoe, then bring it on.
And that’s exactly what the extended Eisen family and friends did on Jan. 11 to mark Nioma’s special day.
“We rented an igloo, and it enabled a lot other family to stop by and see her and be seen, and it made an enormously festive day for the birthday lady,” Nioma’s son Steve said.
Sitting inside the furnished and heated igloo – also known as a Hometown House, as the business calls them – with Nioma were Steve and his wife, Lois, and his sister Karen Messer and her husband, Bob. Throughout the lunch hour, various combinations of Nioma’s eight grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and friends dropped by to share the love.
Cake, personalized “104” cookies and balloons added to the party atmosphere, as did posters taped on the clear walls of the igloo filled with pictures of Nioma and her family.
“The reaction from my mother was overwhelmingly positive,” Steve said. “She had a perpetual smile on her face.”
Nioma is “a little hard of hearing,” he said, but otherwise is in fine fettle.
“She is an extraordinary woman who has the mind and sense of humor of anyone I know at any age,” granddaughter-in-law Laura Eisen said. “Having lunch with Nioma is like having lunch with a celebrity because everyone is so excited to see her, and at 104 she still knows who everyone is and has a story about them.”
She grew up on the South Side of Chicago, moved to the North Side in the 1950s, and ultimately migrated to Highland Park. Her husband died about 20 years ago, and she lived on her own.
“She is very independent,” Steve said, “and she insisted on living in her home until such time as every single one her friends had passed away.”
When that happened, “and she then had no socialization,” about four years ago, she moved to Vi and the Glen, he said.
There, she has fit in well.
“She is a very, very pleasant lady with a great disposition. She is fond of everybody, and everybody is fond of her,” Steve said.
Proof of that would be the 40 birthday cards she received from fellow residents at the Vi, “and so many flowers in her room it looked like a flower shop,” Steve added.
Hometown Coffee & Juice, at the corner of Vernon and Park in Glencoe, was Steve and Lois’s choice for the party.
“We are frequent visitors of Hometown and very fond of management and all the staff there,” he said.
Hometown posted comments and pictures on its Instagram account, while calling it “our first three-digit birthday.”
Alan P. Henry is a New York Times bestselling author, six-time national fiction contest prize winner, and 35-year newspaper veteran with the Chicago Sun-Times, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, 22nd Century Media and The Record.