All in the family

Amy Hamblin

Sara Feinstein, 20, is a proud grandmother.

To many Northwestern students, that would probably seem a bit odd. But for the 40 percent of NU women who live within the Greek system, it’s par for the course.

Feinstein, a third-year member of Alpha Phi, is one of many sorority sisters welcoming in a new generation of pledges to the family by literally creating “pledge families.”

Weeks ago houses matched up older sorority members with new pledges to create strong mother-daughter relationships. New moms welcome their “babies” by showering them with bundles of gifts and candy — often labeled “It’s a girl!”

Since their identities aren’t revealed until the end of the week, pledge moms sneak around in the wee hours of the morning to festoon doors and hallways with colorful streamers, posters and banners all declaring the sororities’ affection for the new member.

Feinstein, who was a pledge mom for two girls last year — “twins!” laughs Feinstein — said she enjoys her new role as a pledge grandma. Feinstein said she relishes the chance to spoil her family members.

“You’re perpetuating the cycle,” said Feinstein, an Education junior. “It’s a very fun week that celebrates everything we love about the sorority system.”

Pledge families can be as small as a mother and a daughter but often balloon to as large as 10 people, depending on involvement of dads (boyfriends), aunts (pledge twins) and godparents (friends).

Many moms sponsor special performances for new pledges, such as all-male a capella shows. Several Naval ROTC men mimicked the famous scene from “Top Gun” by serenading Kappa Delta pledges with “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling.” Multiple sororities treated their pledge babies to strippers — all of whom were students, of course.

In an effort to keep their anonymity intact, pledge moms also send guys to their daughters’ rooms to deliver flowers and food while singing or reading to them.

“I think (pledge mom week) is a really unique way for a girl to feel closer to an older member,” said Jaya Varma, a Kappa Delta pledge. “You walk outside your door, and there are these elaborate decorations everywhere.”

Varma, a Weinberg freshman, said her favorite gift is a giant three-foot teddy bear left in front of her door. Although Varma said she is certain she will activate, she said the inundation of gifts and festivities would have influenced her to pledge — even if she weren’t totally sure.

“I do think it helps girls who are on the fence (about staying with the house),” said Kelly Shimizu, Panhellenic Association’s president and an Education junior. “It’s a good way to see the sisterhood come out.”