Hart House Parents and Students
Maureen Coyle has just begun a PhD in Physical Cultural Studies in the Department of Exercise Sciences. She might have started her degree a lot earlier, but her daughter Esmé, had other plans.
“I wanted to go back to graduate school when Esmé was two,” says Maureen, “I enrolled her in a nearby daycare. It was somewhere between College and Bloor. So the first day, I’m at home studying and there’s a knock at the door. It’s a man, and he has Esmé with him. He says ‘I didn’t know what to do. I had to bring her here.’ Turns out he was a cab driver. Esmé had decided that she didn’t agree with the concept of naptime. So she left. She hailed a cab on Bloor Street, gave the guy our address and arrived at home. Needless to say, I decided to postpone my studies. It just wasn’t the right time.”
Esmé, now in second year at U of T, smiles innocently, “I still don’t like taking naps.”
She is at Hart House today preparing for an audition. Always active in high school theatre, Esmé thought she would keep acting as a hobby while she studied a “real subject” at university. But after attending a Clubs Fair and gathering all the theatre-related information she could, she decided to audition to get into the theatre programme and is now working towards a double major in Theatre and Sociocultural Anthropology with a minor in History.
Maureen had also studied Theatre as an undergraduate and was involved with CIUT radio station, spent a lot of time at the gym, wrote and directed for campus theatre, and got very little sleep, yet somehow remembers quite a lot of the lectures she attended to this day.
“It was like a feeding frenzy,” she says. “I took advantage of everything. I didn’t have a previous generation to show me the way. So I just took anything that interested me without much thought for how it all fit together.”
I wanted to go to Hogwarts
Esmé, on the other hand, was a little shy in first year and didn’t manage to do as much as she had hoped to do. Her goal this year is to get more involved. When asked why she chose to go to U of T, Esmé lists off her reasons, “It’s one of the best universities in Canada. They offered the best variety of classes in Anthropology. Good range of clubs and activities. I didn’t want to be only focused on academics. And most of all, I wanted to go to Hogwarts.”
When she was little, Maureen used to take her on walks through the campus. At that time, Harry Potter had just come out and Esmé was a huge fan. When they walked into Hart House and she saw the high ceilings, the stone staircases and the Great Hall, Esmé thought she had entered Hogwarts.
Being a student at “Hogwarts” has its advantages: the beautiful library, the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, the gym and, of course the Hart House Theatre. The only drawback is having to share the space with her mom.
“I see her all the time,” says Esmé. “When I was thinking of going to U of T, I was a little worried that my mom was here too.”
“I assured her,” says Maureen, “I’ll only be in my small area. We’ll never see each other!”
“We keep running into each other,” says Esmé, “I’m outside of my college at Trinity and there she is! What is she doing there?”
“I was coming from the library,” says Maureen. “I was getting a book!”
“I literally see her everywhere,” Esmé says.
“Hey, at least I never ask to have lunch with you and your friends,” says Maureen.
“Oh give it time!” Esmé responds.
Maureen laughs, “We do have tea together at Sammy’s.”
“That’s true,” admits Esmé. “We do that fairly often and that’s ok.”
In addition to tea, the two share a lot in common including their love of art, culture, theatre and fitness, but they are very different people, each with her own approach to studies and to life.
When asked if there’s anything Maureen has always wanted to ask her daughter, she says, “I don’t think I have a question for her now. I’ll have one for her 20 years from now. I’ll ask her ‘do you think these were the right choices? Should we have done something different?’ The only question I have for her now is ‘did you have breakfast?’”
Esmé answers the same question with, “I’m curious to know what her experiences were like when she was here as an undergrad. But, I don’t want her to answer now. I want to do this my own way first. Then I want to hear how she did it.”
Maureen nods her head in agreement. “Stepping back into Hart House after several decades, I was immediately taken back,” she says. “I take great delight in watching new students come in and take ownership of the place in the same way that I did back then and that Esmé has now. The building itself is an enormous factor in what brings people back here. They feel they have a place here at Hart House.”