Hemingway’s Cousin Adelaide

My 12th grade English teacher, Mrs. Adelaide Truesdell, was Ernest Hemingway’s first cousin. With a little Googling, I learned that she was 60 years old when she was my teacher – four years younger than I am today. I remember her as slight, gray, fey, and gentle. My 10th grade English teacher had once heaved a glass paperweight at a disagreeable student. My 11th grade English teacher was especially fond of the boys in my class. I certainly remember those two and I even remember some of what they taught me about English grammar and literature. But Mrs. Truesdell stands out for me because of a few words in the margin of an essay I wrote for her class. She wrote, “You write with charm. Write more.”

And so I have.

Here is the essay that earned Ernest’s cousin’s praise.

Woodrow Wilson High School, Section 124-4. November 4, 1965

“Autumn is my season of serenity. In Spring, I feel restless; wanderlust grips me. Winter and Summer eke out unreckoned angers. Crisp air and brightly hued leaves tumbling end-over-end fill me with a deep awareness of the grandeur of God.

I have a perfect seat for viewing the unlimited splendors of Autumn. The window of my homeroom opens onto a corner of the campus with trees, streets, cars, buildings, and people — all subject to the winds, leaves, and briskness of Fall. The streets and buildings remain stolid in the face of beauty. Never still, the trees vibrate, the branches whip about, and the leaves fall to earth.

Throughout the last weeks of onrushing Autumn, I have seen the gradual changes of the shifting seasons. The trees, once green, became a symphony of reds, oranges, and yellows.

The people change, too. They wear coats or sweaters and walk more quickly, as if they were afraid of the season and must hurry out of its reach.

The sky looks colder. Even when the sun shines, there is a darkness. A darkness that invades the being of the world.

The season of death is approaching.

In this time prefacing the inevitable slowness of winter, the world seems to want to increase its tempo. As if to make up for the time soon to be lost, all processes speed up. The living process is quicker, the aging is quicker, but the dying process is the quickest of all.”

6 comments on “Hemingway’s Cousin Adelaide

  1. sheila says:

    This is lovely! I’m surprised you didn’t write poetry when you were younger.

  2. Eleni says:

    Charming indeed! And… I’d like to hear more about that 11th grade teacher, lol!

  3. Peter Crane says:

    I was in Mrs. Truesdell’s English class two years before you. On the Monday after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, she stood before the class and read “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed.” She added that she was sad that there was no contemporary poet capable of writing something comparable about Kennedy.

    Do you know the photos of Mrs. Truesdell as a young woman, fresh out of Oberlin, in China, c. 1931? If you go to Google Images and look for “Adelaide Hemingway,” you will probably find them. Otherwise try the Oberlin photo archives.

    My guess is that your 11th grade teacher was Mrs. Grover, a very odd duck indeed, but a well-meaning one. I could write much more about her. And your 10th grade teacher? Mrs. Reifsnyder, perhaps?

    But forgive me if I am too dumb to negotiate your website: who are you? I don’t see your name. Did we know each other? Did you take Latin with the wonderful Mrs. Gerber?

    — Peter Crane, Seattle

  4. Peter Martyn says:

    I was in Mrs. Truesdell’s AP class in ’65. Her kindness and encouragement of young love left a permanent impression on me, as did her teaching. Not to mention her delightful quip that it was the prudish Victorians “who discovered that the pun was the lowest form of humour” — and her help with my admission to Oberlin.

  5. Did you know that Adelaide Truesdell had a cottage in Bluemont, Virginia?

    Adelaides Lane is named for her.

    The cottage exists to this day.

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