I realize in retrospect that the first professor I ever met was the father of a friend I’d met at The Warehouse. She was studying Communications Studies at the University of Calgary and we all joked about what a joke it was to get to watch movies in school. Tara and pere, a new hire at the University, had just moved west from Toronto.
They were easy to remember. They moved into a newly built, four-storey brick town-home, with sunken garage. It was urban, in the centre of a historic neighbourhood. It was my first time even hearing the word “town-home.” I’d only ever been inside “bungalows” before. Ever. The top floor of the town-home was Professor T’s private study. No one was allowed in. Even though Tara T had made a few of her Calgary friends in a semi-disreputable night club, we were all well-heeled. No one transgressed. But I gazed into the room once or twice. I’d never seen so many books in a private residence. It was a study somebody was actually using for studying, which had never happened anywhere else before to our knowledge.
Tara T was proper. Old-East, Toronto-trained, etiquette and education. She was on the University tennis team. She had crisp tennis whites, and the string tension of her racquets was always just so. I’d never played the sport before and I thought tennis was not meant for the likes of me. But she was working as a tennis pro at the prestigious Calgary Tennis Club (founded in 1889 and pictured above) over the summer, and she told a few of us that if we showed up after shift, like around ten p.m., she’d teach us how to hit, just for fun under the lights at night.
I don’t know how she did it, but Tara T turned three malnourished club kids into competent tennis players in a single session. She could tell—by the uncommon outbreak of smiling on my face—that she had a convert on her hands. She told me to keep the racquet, and so my first stick was a Tara T hand-me-down. That whole summer I couldn’t stop bugging her about when she could next get us in. Forehand topspin. Hit one of those the right way once or twice, and you can never go back. Learning to play in one’s early 20s is not ideal: I make no claim to any particular competency. But it’s the only form of exercise, or athletic endeavour, I’ve ever enjoyed. Maybe the high jump, briefly, in elementary school, but the bar pole-axed my crotch once, and after that I got scared. Tara T, you are Bianca Andreescu to me.