My Tuition Dollars At Work

April 1, 2006

Lynn came home from school last night, stopping first at a free-standing imaging center to have her knee x-rayed. (And isn’t it nice that we have access to such a place, open until 10:00, where you can walk in, present your insurance card, sit for the film, and be on your way in less than half an hour.) The radiologist determined that there is no patella damage and will recommend to the school physician that she be cleared to practice and play.

The knee was still swollen, and she was walking stiffly this morning. She nevertheless went on her way today, picking up the bridesmaid dress for her roommate’s wedding in August that she also plans to wear to her boyfriend’s senior prom next month. She modeled it for me. As bridesmaid dresses go, it really is lovely — plain, understated, a simple A-line shape in smooth satin hanging from spaghetti straps to a tea length, no butt bows or bustles or yards of chiffon, not at all fussy or unflattering.

After she changed she came down to the kitchen for the first-aid kit to dress her wound. The single stitch looks like it was installed with baling twine and a crochet hook. She got out a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and started dabbing at it. She let out a few mild “Ow! Ow!” sounds as bits of tissue bubbled up. I said something about the peroxide working.

“It’s hydrogen peroxide, actually,” she said. “Peroxide is something different.”

Back in 2003, when Lynn was a junior in high school, I wrote this about her:

I commented in yesterday’s piece that Lynn is not a voracious reader of fiction. This fact will come up periodically in conversations with other people. I’ll indicate that Lynn is not as passionate about reading and has no interest at all in writing. Some will express surprise, as if they expect Lynn to be some sort of clone of me. Some will hang their heads as if consoling me over a tragedy. “You must be heartbroken.” One woman actually said to me once, “Oh, you must be so disappointed.”

I want to strangle them.

My daughter is perfect. Got that?

It’s not that Lynn doesn’t like the humanities. She writes well and has a fine appreciation of literature and music and drama. But she wouldn’t drive 100 miles to hear a poet read or 600 miles to attend “Emily Dickinson Camp” or fly to Colorado to have a novelist tell her how to improve her manuscript. Lynn is a scientist, a biology major whose courses bear names I don’t understand. She’s taken a load of chemistry classes with three- and four-hour labs. She’ll have a career in some facet of health care, probably in some area of consumer or patient education.

To me, peroxide and hydrogen peroxide are the same thing. But I love words and I like to be accurate when I refer to something. “So how are they different?” I asked her.

“Well,” she began, “in inorganic chemistry, the peroxide molecule . . .” She stopped. “It’s kind of hard to explain. I don’t think you’d understand.”

I smiled.

“Okay,” I said, and changed the subject.

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This entry was posted in Lynn.

One thought on “My Tuition Dollars At Work

  1. Oh, Margaret, don’t let her off so easy! Responsible scientists NEED to be able to explain their work to non-scientists — especially if (as is the case for many scientists today) their work is being supported by non-scientists. My daughter (who is also perfect, by the way!) is in a graduate program in immunology at the Mayo Clinic. She once tried to put off her grandmother’s question about what she was doing by saying, “It’s kind of boring.” I told her it was her responsibility to think up a non-boring explanation that her grandmother could understand — said grandmother having helped to fund her college education as well as being a taxpayer and therefore a contributor to the National Science Foundation fellowship that took Laura to Mayo in the first place. Please tell Lynn that it’s worth figuring out how to answer the question.

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