Turret of the Hemingway Birthplace Home in Oak Park, Illinois

Turret of my grandfather’s former apartment in Liberec, Czech Republic

The Hemingway Birthplace Home in Oak Park, Illinois has a turret, and so did the building where my grandfather used to live in what is now called Liberec in the Czech Republic. Hemingway was a writer and my grandfather was a writer, too. They both had turrets, at least at some point in their lives. All the while I was writer-in-residence up in the Hemingway attic I wondered, “Perhaps a writer should have a turret?”

Hemingway Birthplace Home in Oak Park, Illinois

My grandfather’s old building in Liberec, Czech Republic

“My gable” next to the turret
I loved my little writer’s studio in the attic of the Hemingway Birthplace Home, but I did sometimes wish it had been installed in the turret room (off to the left in this picture) and not the gable. However, once the winter winds were blowing, the lack of insulation in the turret room and the hole in its wooden wall convinced me that my gable was the better choice. A writer needs warmth more than romance!

Little Ernest Hemingway purportedly played in the turret’s circular room with his older sister Marcelline, but mainly his doctor father used it to store medical specimens high up on shelves in the tower so the kids wouldn’t be able to reach them. 

My grandfather, on the other hand, grew cacti in the white light of his turret’s alcove. According to my dad’s cousin, he once made the entire extended family come by late at night to watch the Queen of the Night bloom.

“The Queen of
the Night opens its blossom only once, at midnight,” she recounted. “We all bent over this cactus on the window sill, wondering what was so special about it. It had long, flat leaves that flopped out of a ceramic pot but one of those leaves had a little cup of white fur hanging off its
side. By midnight it had opened like a daisy, and the apartment was filled with its wonderful scent. And you know what? By morning it was gone. Shriveled, limp and brown.”