my radiation monitoring badge

Today, I had a flashback moment that ended up connecting me to my parents in a way that I never would have expected.

Both my parents are physicians, and for most of my childhood, I remember being surrounded by the trappings of their work lives — white coats hanging on the backs of car seats, a stethoscope curled up on top of the cookbooks in the kitchen, otoscopes in the drawers of our buffet counter, beepers occasionally shrieking to life and prompting us all to run to see if we could catch the audio message (this was in the days before pagers displayed text messages). Nothing ever stood out as particularly representative of their work, but rather, all the stuff was as much a part of who my parents were as was their hair color or names. Since deciding to become a doctor, I’ve had a few moments that have triggered these memories, or made me better able to understand why there was so much of my parents’ physician lives intertwined in their home lives.

Today, I finally got around to taking my radiation research safety class at the hospital, and at the end of the class, the instructor handed out the monitoring badges that we have to wear whenever we’re in the lab. When he put mine down in front of me, I had a weird moment in which I flashed back to the same badge being on every single one of my parents’ white coats I had ever seen, a moment that was as much of a visceral connection as it was a visual memory. Thinking about it, both my parents had research labs in the hospital, and they’d both have had plenty of cause to wear monitoring badges in their daily lives, so that part makes total sense. What I can’t figure out is how, in my head, the badge became so emblematic of them being doctors — and how after it had, I then managed to completely forget about the association until today. In any event, the most interesting thing to me is how getting the badge made me identify more with my parents than anything else has prior, including them giving me my first stethoscope, and all the conversations I’ve had with them about patients in the past seven years. How powerful this little piece of plastic and film is!