Just off the kitchen and bordering our living room, we have a study hall. It’s my favorite room in the house. On holidays, it doubles as a dining room, but mainly, it’s where one or more family members gather to work.
Over the years, it has been the place where the children colored, then solved simple math problems and wrote book reports. Now, smart-sounding cover letters and résumés are composed there; it has birthed business plans for an iconoclastic political website and strategic initiatives for clients, and it still kindly accommodates my work, which is mostly the rearrangement of incoherent piles. Study hall is not just a room, but also a place of conspiracy and companionship, as in “do you want to do study hall tonight?” or “I’m going to wake up at 6 and do study hall if anyone wants to join me.”
It helps that we had bookcases put into our dining room, which designer Julio Quinones created, knowing there would be more editing than eating at the oval, much-waxed and otherwise unloved wooden table. He lined the table with chairs in the Biedermeier style; they’re slender, even lady-like, but sturdy enough for a five-course Italian meal or a yearlong honors thesis.
Of course, except for my piles, study hall is empty now — even as the ghosts of my four little girls still sit at the table in those pretty chairs, doing homework. When they come home, so very grown, my daughters invariably congregate there, with their laptops and cups of coffee, aware that the moments when we can do study hall together now are few, and that this room, like all rooms, has a curious history, beautiful and impermanent, and understood only by its owners.