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Miss Kavanagh, tea and me.



Howard wrote here once of his afternoon encounter with Rose Kavanagh, retired principal of Darrow School. It seemed the beginning of a fruitful story. [Incidentally, her name seems to fluctuate—Kavana, Kavanagh, Kavanaugh—through the project. Perhaps that will get settled soon.]

Synecdoche 2.1

Howard had been asked by his mother to deliver something to Miss Kavanagh at her home on Third Street NW one Saturday afternoon circa 1953, which became for him a memorable right of passage: one of his first social interactions where he’d been accepted as an adult. I rather enjoyed designing Miss K’s 1910 bungalow and imagining Howard’s hesitant knock at its front door; his welcome in and the generous offer of tea and conversation, rather than the perfunctory acceptance of an unspecified package and a hasty dismissal. I had a mental picture of her home (drawn from the Arts & Crafts era work of Chicago architect Lawrence Buck, whose work I’ve admired for forty years or more) and, indeed, I could hear and smell it as well: the gentle chime of a mantle clock on the quarter hour; the faint scent of sachet and other smells we often associate with the aged. So it’s very likely that Miss K will become a unit in the “Agincourt Homecoming” exhibit next September.

Rose Kavanagh is a composite of several teachers in my own early education—always women—who, in hindsight, had treated me well at a difficult time in my life. Perhaps this is a small way to pay them back for their kindness. And so the story evolves: a stained glass window grew into a house; the house required furnishings and accessories; those decorative elements became the focus of social ritual; and one of those rituals involved a small boy of nine or ten.

The house needed artifacts appropriate to its age and the social standing of its owner, choices I was happy to make. This afternoon, in fact, it appears to have generated a piece of furniture: a side table with nesting chairs that I hope to build in our woodshop and include in next year’s exhibit as part of Miss Kavanagh’s story, the setting for Howard’s Saturday afternoon tea.

rose kavana table001

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