Trevor and the Sky in New Zealand
I received fifty-two emails from Jack during my three month stay in London. The relief and excitement I felt when I read Jack's emails got me through a lot of days of uncertainty. The more I wrote to Jack and he wrote back the more alive and understood I felt. He became my anchor and my sounding board. When our phone conversations first started I was a bit nervous to talk rather than write to him, but eventually our conversation found a similar, familiar rhythm and waiting for the email lab to open became waiting for the phone to ring. Everything in England was so new to me that connecting with someone back home made me feel better. Jack was very good with daily email correspondence. Hotmail was the one free online email program at the time, but I didn't have computer internet access when I started the PGCE program at the Central School. It was 1998 and the internet was still pretty new that most schools didn't have it yet, so I took it upon myself to introduce Central's computer lab coordinator to America Online ("You've got mail!") so students could get connected. In the meantime, I took the Tube (aka the metro or subway) to a local mall in Bayswater, near Notting Hill, called Whiteleys. It was huge, trendy mall with an internet cafe and a bookstore called W.H. Smiths that I loved to explore, and was beautifully decorated during the holiday season.
As I mentioned in part two, Jack was handsome and kind. He had a nice smile and a soothing voice. He was everything I found appealing in a man. He had hopes and dreams of his own too, and eventually as we grew to know each other better, we also began to think and dream about each other as more than friends. As crazy as it sounds, like a real life version of two strangers meeting through writing as in The Shop Around the Corner, which inspired the movie You've Got Mail, it was romantic and thrilling to experience for me, and as young and un-jaded as I was then, my heart allowed me to dream of the possibilities. I knew Jack was dreaming too because he mentioned ideas about our possible future together on numerous occasions. It was this dream of the future that I cared with me each day, even as I began my teaching assignment at Kingsbury High School.
On my first official day at Kingsbury as a student teacher I got off the Tube and decided to walk to the school through a park called Roe Green that I located on a map in my trusty A-Z book instead of taking the bus from the station. I didn't realize until half way there that the distance was half a mile and a ten minute walk. Along with the seven station stops I had to pass on the Tube from Swiss Cottage, the park walk would later give me lots of time to think and pray. One of the things I loved most about London was the ability to walk everywhere.
Upon my arrival at the school I was met by one of the others in my Central group, Lucy, who was also assigned to Kingsbury along with me. We were most fortunate to be assigned as our mentoring teacher, Dr. Alison Dimbleby, one of the best drama educators in London. As part of the drama curriculum we were also being mentored by the dance teacher, Ms. Lorraine Wright. Both she and Ms. Dimbleby were instantly delightful and welcoming. It is important to note here that both Lucy and I were single gals, though Lucy had a steady boyfriend and I had Jack. I felt at home among these unique and talented ladies, but as circumstances would dictate, Alison had decided to move North with her family at the end of the fall term, so to be consistent for Lucy's longer training, Lorraine was assigned to directly mentor her while Alison would be focused solely on me. Alison was a strong leader too, so when she told me that she wasn't going to introduce me as a student teacher to her students, but their overall teacher for the term, I was shocked. Better yet, I was amazed that she had such confidence in me to observe my teaching her classes a few times and then she left me alone to teach the outlined lessons I had planned with her guidance.
(Pictured from left to right: Lucy, Me, Dr. Alison Dimbleby, Ms. Lorraine Wright)
Each day all the teachers took a break together in the teacher's lounge for lunch and then again in the afternoon to drink tea or coffee. Hot black tea with a two lumps of sugar and a touch of cream was a drink that I loved from childhood and had been consuming almost daily since the age of seven. Alison called it "the old English way" of making tea, which made me laugh. One of the great things I would discover through Ancestry DNA testing years later, explained my deep love and fascination with all things British, like tea and scones, as the test revealed that I am 23% British and 12% Irish/Scottish. Who knew?! I believe I did. I always felt it deep down in my bones.
On one particular day in the lounge during lunch, I was sitting near two gentlemen who were having an in-depth conversation comparing England to other countries. The older of the two was a seasoned teacher and the younger was a temporary supply teacher, a.k.a a substitute teacher in the U.S., who was a recent transient New Zealander aptly named Trevor. He was tall, tan, blond, and quite handsome, not to mention single. Almost as soon as Lucy and I had arrived, Alison and Lorraine tried to fix her up with Trevor, but since Lucy felt solidly unavailable and I was just a temporary visitor, we hadn't made much of a connection with him. I never could have guessed how that moment in a lunch would change my life and my future choices.
Trevor's voice raised and he said loudly and proudly, "The sky is bigga in New Zealand!" Everyone stopped to stare at him then seconds later we all doubled over in laughter. It sounded so absurd since the sky is the same size all over the planet but Trevor was quite serious. Years later, when I was visiting a friend in Texas, I finally understood why Trevor was so confident in his declaration. When the landscape isn't cluttered with trees, houses, tall buildings, mountains or traffic, the sky is indeed "bigga" to the mind's eye.
(Pictured below: The actual sky in New Zealand)
Fortunate for me I had a chance later to get to know Trevor better. In England, a temp supply teacher is hired on a full-time basis and fills in where needed each day, whether for an absent teacher or assisting other duties. One day when Ms. Dimbleby was absent, though I was her student teacher and she'd left me in charge of the class, Trevor had been assigned to fill in for her so he joined me in supervising the class. I think back on how fortunate it was that my students were practicing their final drama presentations that day, so there wasn't much for either of us to do but visually supervise. This allowed us to sit together at the head of the room at a long table, and a casual conversation flowed as I asked Trevor questions about his life in New Zealand.
He told me about his difficult move from New Zealand to England, and his hope to find a permanent, fulfilling job. He reminded me of a little-lost puppy - so cute, so sweet, and in need of someone to love and care for him, which helped me understand then why my mentors wanted so badly to find him a companion. After a lengthy chat, I could tell there was a connective vibe between us. The kind where you realize your palms are suddenly clammy and the temperature in the room is rapidly increasing. To my surprise, Trevor asked me if I like chocolate. My immediate reaction was "Doesn't every girl on the planet!?" Then he invited me to an international chocolate festival that was taking place in central London that weekend.
I had to decline Trevor's sweet offer since it was just after Thanksgiving and my family was coming for a 4-day visit that same weekend. I don't blame my family at all, but I missed out on taste-testing chocolate from around the world with a hot foreigner! And then there was Jack, of course, who was at the forefront of my mind as I had considered Trevor's offer, so I didn't feel too bad about missing the opportunity then because I believe an awesome future with the man of my dreams was on the horizon.
If I had one wish about London it would be that I could turn back the clock and take more time to memorize Trevor's face, voice, and ask him more questions about his life. Though my heart had been tied to someone else, Trevor made a lasting impression on my mind, one I recall the same way the older character version of Rose laments in the movie Titanic, "He loves on only in my memory" and each time I look up a sky that seems larger than life.
To be continued in Part Four: The Alternate Universe of You've Got Mail