One of life’s little joys – and there are many such joys in my life, even the small, strange ones I can’t explain – is talking to my children about what I’m doing, and learning. I anticipate that continuing even when I’m not actively in classes. Learning doesn’t end when school does. Which is why I was standing in the kitchen making chicken noodle soup for the sicky, and explaining cancer biology to him. Probably at a level he doesn’t grasp, although I was trying my best to unpack some things down several levels from the presentation I was summing up for him.
This all started when I got home from class, and he asked for chicken noodle soup. He’d stayed home from school with an upset stomach, but was feeling better, so I got it started. He was sitting at the table watching me (and telling me what he wanted me to add in, like corn, and can you put onions in, Mama?). He asked me to tell him a story, and as I was trying to formulate something fictional, he amended that to ask me about what I’d learned in class today.
It was exciting, I told him. Three of my classmates presented a summary of a paper on… well, I should explain. We’re all doing this, picking a paper that fits into given parameters. It has to deal with molecular biology, be published since 2012, and use Drosophila as a model. I told my son what Drosophila are – explaining why they are so valuable to science will wait for later.
And that’s what sparked this thought. My work – right now, my school, but soon – is really interesting. I’m going into a field where really big, important questions are being asked, and answered. I’m not likely to be the person asking those questions in the beginning, but I can be one that sees the answers emerging, kinda blurry at first, like the scans of insect guts we were looking at today on Powerpoint slides. And then I can come home and tell my son about it. Or my daughters, although at the moment I’ve been amusing myself by reading papers aloud to see them run screaming from the room. That’s a fun game. It doesn’t take much of ‘finding that the COPI-Arf79F-lipolysis-B-Oxidation pathway regulated transformed stem-cell survival in the fly led us to investigate whether the pathway has a similar role in CSCs…” to elicit a squeal followed by hasty retreat.
I found this paper exciting, if dense and somewhat in need of editing for clarity. The data, the results; that shone through, and I expect that Eldest, who is a brilliant young lady already working on research, will likely find this paper fascinating. But the Little Man… listened. I don’t know if it will stick with him – his response to my explanation of lipolysis versus glycolysis was to wrap his arms around his stomach and declare he was never eating fat again! – but I think in time, the gradual addition of information will accrete. I love that my kids are curious, and ask questions, and absorb knowledge. Motherhood is, as it has been since before I held my first babe in arms, a challenge and an endless delight. Mixing science in? Cream on the Belgian waffles and strawberries.
But the soup is done, and there is homework waiting for me, and the boy is satiated with science and playing a game. So I’ll sign off and pay attention to the beckoning responsibilities of student/mother/artist/whatever-else-I-am.
Oh, if you’re curious about the paper (and have access, sorry, paywall) it’s here: The Lipolysis Pathway Sustains Normal and Transformed Stem Cells in Adult Drosophila