Academic journal article The Hemingway Review


Academic journal article The Hemingway Review


Article excerpt

Over a period of several years I communicated often with Carol Hemingway Gardner, asking for information and sending greetings on her birthday. Her responses were so penetrating that I urged her to write her recollections about life in the Hemingway household when she was growing up. She told me, however, that she had found herself unable to do this and would merely leave some reminiscences for her children.

So it came as a complete surprise to receive a letter of 2 April 2003, from Elizabeth Lombardi, Carol's daughter. Elizabeth said that after her mother's death on October 27 they had found references to me in her papers. Carol had written some forty pages of recollections in response to my suggestion. "Mother must have spent many days and hours trying to sort out her memories on your behalf," she wrote, "and it seems a shame if that were to lack resolution."

The resolution took place and as a result of the thoughtfulness of both Elizabeth and her mother some forty pages arrived, handwritten but legible. Their contents included some information which reinforced what was already known and some that is new. A number of duplications made minor editing necessary but what follows are otherwise unretouched reminiscences by Ernest Hemingway's youngest sister.


THE STORY I HEARD FROM MY FATHER about my birth was that I was due to be born in June, but I was reluctant to be born and was holding up the whole family's annual trip to Walloon Lake--so my father decided to take a nurse up to Michigan. And since he decided to do the delivery himself, the whole family went up to the lake. On July 14th, 1911, all the four children were sent to the Bacon farm while my mother was in labor. I was born in the afternoon, my mother said, "Just in time for tea." My father said I was the only 10-months baby he had ever delivered. I had long hair and long fingernails, and shortly before I was born I had a bowel movement.

The nurse was worried about my mother. She was not well for some time after I was born and I was evidently a puny baby. Ruth Arnold came to live with us that summer and was devoted to both mother and baby. She stayed with us until my younger brother Les was ready for school. She was only seventeen when she first came to live with us. She was much closer to me than my mother. I called her "Bobby" and soon everybody else did too. Her family had come from Ireland and lived in a nearby town, but she seldom went home. She took all physical care of the two younger children and was a devoted help to my mother. She sewed and mended and made embroidered dresses and little suits for me and for Leicester.

I was four when Les was born and was sent to spend a day and night at my grandfather Hemingway's house about six blocks away. My Aunt Grace was in charge of me. She taught at the Kindergarten College at Northwestern University. She undertook to teach me how to dress myself--something Bobby had done for me. I couldn't manage my complicated button-on underwear. Rather than stay with her and risk wetting my pants, I ran the six blocks home. I had never before crossed a street alone and I was almost hysterical when Bobby let me in the back door of our house. Aunt Grace hadn't missed me but she was told by phone where I was.

I was taken into the darkened nursery where my mother lay with a squinched-up red baby that Bobby told me was my little brother. He didn't appeal to me and I thought he was mean to make my mother sick. I liked him even less when I later watched Bobby give him baths and call him "Bobby's little lover." Leicester was the BOY that everyone had hoped I would be. I just made a fourth girl in the family and was therefore a disappointment. I resented Bobby's spending so much time with him as well as the fact that he was a boy.

I was so glad to start kindergarten at Holmes School--just a block from our house at 600 N. Kenilworth Avenue. …

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