Every time I’m at my writer-in-residence studio at the Hemingway House, I poke about the attic. I feel like it’s my foyer, my grand foyer, actually, as it is so much larger than my little studio, which used to be a maid’s room. I’ve never had an attic before since I’ve always lived in apartment buildings, and so I love hanging out there even though it is rather dusty.
The attic features terrific cobwebs, like any attic should, right?
The attic space is not insulated and will become quite inhospitable when the temperatures drop. In fact, yesterday I discovered a hole in the wall of the turret room; it’s going to get mighty cold in there for sure!
I love the turret room, though, for its roundness and the view over the rooftops of Oak Park. I wish it weren’t just a storage space for stained glass windows that no one knows where to put otherwise.
Poking about the turret room yesterday, I spotted this stained trunk and opened it. There’s a note inside that it used to belong to Marcelline, Hemingway’s older sister. Sadly, the Hemingway Family burned much of what had been in the attic when they moved to their larger house a few blocks away, and so few things in the house are original. Hemingway wrote later:
“…after my grandfather died, we moved away from that house … Many things that were not to be moved were burned in the back yard and I remember those jars from the attic being thrown in the fire, and how they popped in the heat and the fire flamed up from the alcohol.”
Carlos Baker, Ernest Hemingway, A Life Story, Macmillan, New York, 1969
The thing is, each time I poke about, I find something new. That could be because I didn’t look there before, or simply didn’t notice it, or it could be because the good people of the Hemingway Foundation added something else to the attic storage as they continue to get various period items and Hemingway family memorabilia.
I’m told Ernest and Marcelline used to play up in the attic, which makes sense since it’s the kind of thing kids would do, rummaging in the mysteries of things stuffed under the roof, or simply enjoying some quiet time away from the adults. It’s also the kind of thing a grown-up writer temporarily housed in the attic likes to do!