Friday, December 15, 2017

the microbes and me

My life as a stay-at-home mother has pretty much come to an end. My beloved Iris uber Alles left home early at 16 (she insists this had nothing to do with her mother) and is currently living in Berlin, of all places, studying abroad.  Tiny Amazing Lola is no longer tiny and while still amazing, is not very interactive, spending most of her free time in her room with the door firmly shut, texting other teens. I am not much needed in the home, apart from feeding and cleaning up after the pets.

However, this past fall I discovered a new passion: microbiology.  Microbiology was my dreaded last prerequisite, dreaded because it was legendarily demanding, but it turned out to be spellbinding. "I love the pathogens," I confided artlessly to anyone who'd listen.  I felt angst when I had to put my plates of Staphylococcus epidermidis that I had lovingly cultured into the autoclave bin. 

I saw microbiology wherever I went. "The dog is wagging her tail exactly in the manner of a bacteria with a flagella," I observed. Gathering steam, I added, "Did you know that a protozoan with a flagella moves its flagella in an entirely different way?" 

But it was so riveting only for me.

On our family text chat, one of the children posted that she'd spiked a fever. "Did you know fevers can be caused by the death of Gram negative bacteria??" I typed back.  "They release an endotoxin when they die that causes a fever. Type 'More' to subscribe to Basic Microbiology Facts.'" She did not, in the event, type "More."  Driving in the car one day with a teenaged child, I asked if she'd read a piece I'd forwarded about viroids of the sea: viruses living in seawater who prey upon other aquatic viruses. She rolled her eyes and patiently explained. "You know how you're not interested in everything I'm interested in? Well, I can't come along with you on this microbiology thing."

Like all good things, microbiology came to an end, leaving us with a hard-earned A on my transcript and some fresh stains on the Sober Husband's lab coat, which I borrowed for the class.  Still the memories linger. A friend mentioned that she'd been up in the night vomiting with presumed food poisoning, but her husband had eaten the same things and was fine. I suggested that she'd picked up a norovirus, also known as "the Winter Vomiting Virus." "Type 'More' to subscribe to Basic Microbiology Facts," I added.