November afternoon. Driving down backroads alongside bare brown fields where a smattering of birds takes flight. Snatches of woods scattering scarlet and yellow leaves into the swirling wind. A glance in the rearview mirror: My kindergarten granddaughter, strapped into her carseat, looks pensively through the window.
I shall make conversation…
—You’re very quiet.
—I’m just thinking.
(pause to see if she’s going to elaborate. She doesn’t. So…)
—I have a question for you.
—The other day you said you wanted to be a scientist when you grow up.
—I’m curious: What kind of scientist? There are so many, you know. Do you want to be a biologist, studying living things?
—I want to be a nurture scientist.
—A nurture scientist-? Do you mean nature, or…
—No, a nurture scientist like the Jeopardy! host.
—Ahhh… Mayim Bialik. You mean neuroscientist.
—Yes. I want to be a neuroscientist.
—Do you know what neuroscientists do?
—They learn about how brains work.
She is five.
Full of love and wonder and confidence. These and the deep blue sky are reflected in her eyes. No limits, only infinite possibility. The faith of a child is a pure and mighty thing.
Someday I shall tell her about the hippocampi, the two little seahorses in the brain that so fascinate me, and their importance to learning, memory, and emotion, how they navigate us through the stormy seas of life.
But on this golden afternoon, as we head home where her mother and baby sister await, I just marvel at her own brain. The beginning of a brilliant neuroscientist, if that is indeed what she wants to be. The world can surely use more. Humans, know thyselves. It is a daily, moment-by-moment undertaking.
Meanwhile, as evening settles in, I Christmas-shop online for my granddaughter and discover a book by her role model, Mayim Bialik: Flash Facts: Ten Terrific Tales About Science and Technology!
I place it in the cart, thinking about Bialik’s own inspiration to pursue neuroscience, born of a love for understanding the way we think and feel and communicate. On a whim, I search for “nurture scientist.” Turns out that nurture science is a real thing: research-based therapy around the healing power of nurturing as a means of helping families cope with emotional, behavioral, and developmental difficulties.
The tugging of the tiny hippocampi on those reins between the brain and the heart.
Ever a delicate balance.
–with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge–