What could be more perfect than a bunch of writer friends
holding a picnic in the attic of the Hemingway Birthplace Home? Where the gabled
windows look out at the green, green tree tops of Oak Park and the old turret
room still dreams of the medicinal specimens Father Hemingway used to store
This was my crazy idea: My friends had wondered out loud whether I’d “have them over” when I was awarded the writer-in-residence gig at the Hemingway Birthplace Home. Of course I’d have them over, but not just for a tour, no! Every time I walk up the attic stairs I’ve been thinking, I’ve just got to have a picnic here. Thankfully, these friends were game. One did the scheduling (not so easy to find a date that works for five women!), one organized the picnic lunch, the others brought glasses and tableware. I dusted off
the cane-backed chair and wiped down a few of the rattan chairs with the mustard
yellow vinyl seat cushions. All furniture that’s been sitting around the attic waiting for something to happen. I grouped them around my studio’s marble top side
table which I schlepped out and pushed up against a danky white wicker lawn table, which I had “Windexed.” That was the setting.
an old pin board between two wooden swivel chairs, that was our buffet for blush wine,
fizzy lemonade, sparkly water, mushroom paste, limp roasted vegetables, a plate
of hard cheeses, garlic bread and tuna spread. Peanut butter cookies for an
American touch in an otherwise French country picnic.
What a thrill to have friends like these who consider this a
treat, to toast each other in this garret, where Hemingway used to play
with his older sister. Friends who are not worried by wobbly floor boards, spider webs between chair legs, and dead bugs
on window sills.
I’m filled up with the joy of this gathering, and I am reminded again that when something extraordinary is given to us, such as the bohemian setting of the Hemingway attic, we need to share and create something with it, if only for a few hours on a bright Wednesday in May. We need to make memories.