No Place Like Home | People & Places | Smithsonian
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No Place Like Home

Guidebook writer John Thompson discovers a under-appreciated get-away - at the end of his own driveway

smithsonian.com

I write guidebooks for a living. Mostly it’s a great job. But an unusual occupational hazard revealed itself to me recently when I rolled into my driveway after several weeks on the road and instinctively reached for my notebook. This is what I wrote:

The Thompson Residence (Weekends, 9 A.M. - 6 P.M., or by reservation.) Dating from the early 1950s, this one-story ranch house is where the writer and his family lived for many more years than they ever intended. Furnishings include the original plastic lawn chairs and a complete set of Barney the Dinosaur: the Early Years tapes. On the living room bookshelf, a fine example of early 1980s IKEA fiberboard assembled by the writer, are such titles as David Copperfield and The I That Is We: Awakening to Higher Energies through Unconditional Love.

A comforting disarray gives an authentic sense of the home life of a writer who was seldom at home. Stacks of mail stand heaped on kitchen counters; a cola stain on the linoleum floor has been preserved to mark the first time the writer’s daughter poured her own drink; pencil lines on one wall record the children’s height at various ages. Adjacent drawings attest to their artistic evolution from abstract to primitive to naughty-as-I-want-to-be.

Reenactors dressed in period costumes portray the writer’s family. The "writer’s wife" greets you at the door with a semi-warm smile. A cheerful "I’m so glad you’re here" sounds a note of welcome while reminding you that you are a visitor. The "son" and "daughter" offer anecdotal tours of the premises.

Thompson’s Yard (Daily, 7 A.M. - 7 P.M.) This junglelike expanse of native flora brings to mind the naturalist landscape ideas of the 18th century. Flowing seamlessly from one area to the next, the garden displays a healthy mix of grasses, buttercups and dandelions, creating a devil-may-care appearance in an otherwise very proper neighborhood. Notice how a patch of Digitaria sanguinalis (crabgrass) near the spigot is laced with a free-flowing yellow pattern oddly reminiscent of the loops and spirals of a garden hose.

Olde Home Place Restaurant (Open daily for all meals, except when the cook doesn’t feel like it.) This cozy dining room offers home-cooked meals with an attitude. On any given night, the ambience can vary suddenly from flowers and candlelight to Pokémon cards and overturned sippy cups. The menu of several microwave specialties relieves you of the tedium of too many options. In the mood for fresh fish? Bring it and the chef will cook it. You want green beans? Open the can yourself.

Stay Awhile B&B (Phone ahead.) You’ll feel right at home in one of three quaint bedrooms. Family photographs and stacks of mail-order catalogs provide a homey touch. Before tucking in for the night, check out the lifelike collection of dust sculptures beneath the furniture. To warm the bed, the genial hostess actually gets in with you. Bountiful breakfasts consist of Cheerios. After two weeks here you’ll wonder why you ever dreamed of staying anywhere else.

 

by John Thompson

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