We went for the tea.
We thought that having tea at Hemingway’s house sounded very … elegantly literary.
Or something like that.
So on a cloudy Tuesday afternoon we headed for Oak Park and Hemingway’s museum and home. First the museum where the receptionist (who has worked there since 1972 and therefore knows everything there is to know) welcomed us and then explained that we did not have to pay because we were there on a Tuesday in March – which was a day for tea, which was a free day. (She knew because she had worked there since 1972).
And “you can take all the pictures you want, but if you were visiting the Frank Lloyd Wright home around the corner, you would have to pay $5.00 per picture.” (And she knew because …)
We had a time crunch and needed to get down to the house by the 2:00 tour, so quickly made our way through the museum exhibits (all in the basement of a large building). The exhibits were what you’d expect – book jackets, childhood memorabilia, war pictures, etc.
Then we walked a block or so to the house itself. A large, two-story Victorian.
Hemingway had a multifaceted childhood. His father, Clarence Hemingway, was a doctor and a naturalist who married the girl next door – or actually, the girl who lived across the street, an aspiring opera singer and a lover of literature. Between the two parents, they gave their children a varied education, helped by Uncle Tylie, a world-traveler who lived with them in his later years. Looking beyond the surface, however, you see a picture of a troubled family. Archived letters show that Clarence did the laundry, cooking and other housework for Grace and that she often spent money on herself rather than on her children. Clarence eventually committed suicide. No surprise then that Hemingway’s own life was so troubled with four wives and a lot of alcohol. Sadly, he, too, ended his life by suicide.
Although I have read many of Hemingway’s books, I am not a big fan. To me the books reflect the chaos of his unsettled life. However, I do realize that he is considered one of America’s best (Nobel Prize in Literature – 1954).
Meanwhile, back at the house, the tour meandered upstairs and we learned more about the Hemingways being that they were one of the influential families of Oak Park in the early 1900s. You could imagine the house filled with the sound of six children and books and bugs and music.
After an hour or so, we said good-bye to the tour guide and thanked her for a great tour.
And then remembered we didn’t get our tea.
Seems like the tea lady had a cold or something.
So we did not feel especially elegantly literary.
But our adventure didn’t end there. Someone had told us about the Hemmingway Bistro in the Write Inn. Sounded very charming. (The lady who has worked at the museum since 1972 said that it was spelled with two m’s because of licensing purposes.)
The bistro was in a quaint room in the basement of the inn. A server behind the cherrywood counter chatted with some customers. A couple quietly talked in the corner. The atmosphere was old-world cozy with low ceilings and stucco walls. You could almost imagine Hemingway himself hanging out in a corner, smoking a cigar and talking with friends.
As we waited for our food, we heard the girl behind the counter talk about her childhood growing up in Belgium. When she came to take our order, we discovered she was an MK, the daughter of church planters and had come to the area to attend Wheaton. She chatted with us as we scanned the menus.
The bistro was one of those quirky places where you could sit and talk for hours – and besides, the food was absolutely delicious. The bistro almost made us feel elegantly literary once again.
And, of course, the great way to end this post would be with a Hemingway quote – so here goes …
“In order to write about life first you must live it.”
Guess that’s true because now that I’ve been to Hemingway’s house, I can write about it.
To read more about the day – see my friend’s blog at: http://oliveswan.wordpress.com/