Marta defended her dissertation this morning. Two weeks before her due date.
The defense was at 8:30 a.m. She got up at 5 a.m. to finish practicing her presentation. I read through her Power Point to make sure there weren’t any grammar errors. She struggled into the pregnancy suit she wore to job interviews two months ago. Then she asked me to help her zip up her ankle boots. She’s gotten so big it’s hard for her to bend over and tie her own shoes.
She was a wreck, as you might imagine.
The defense started with her presentation, which she kept it to just under 25 minutes and included enough examples that even us non-language specialists could understand. Then the question-and-answer period with the committee began.
I’d joked with my sister beforehand that I was going to pad Marta with water balloons. That way, if she got a particularly tough question, she could grab her stomach in a fake contraction, pop the water balloon and make a fuss about her water breaking. With this distraction she’d have enough time to recollect her thoughts and answer intelligently.
But Marta didn’t need my trick. She was intelligent and well-spoken and even funny. At one point a professor asked her a three-tiered question and she scrambled around looking for paper. “Will you wait one second,” she said. “I brought all this technology but forget to bring any paper.”
Near the end of the defense, one of the committee members said she wanted to ask a few questions, but she began with a compliment. “I just want to say that I learned so much from this dissertation,” she said. “It really was enjoyable to read.”
I got all teary eyed in the back of the room.
Then when the committee sent us out to the hallway so they could deliberate, I got all teary eyed again seeing Marta, her nice blouse sweat-stained and her eyes wide as quarters.
I never thought I’d get choked up about a 300-page dissertation on the use of technology in the analysis of “interactional competence” among college students in a second language classroom. But seeing all that Marta has accomplished this year, from dealing with the nausea and fatigue of early pregnancy to the long and protracted job search and her mad dash to finish her dissertation before Nico arrived, I really did have that kind of pride that bubbles up inside you.
So, congrats Martota (as her niece and nephew call her).
Or should I said, Dr. Martota?