jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

Typhoid Mary, A Poem

There was a girl named Mary Mallon one hundred years ago

She lived in the city that never sleeps, moving from home to home

An Irish cook, some would call her a sassy lassie

Slinking from place to place with dirty hands, none would call her classy.


The story goes she’d cook for you, then the fluids soon would fly

BLECH! Laundress, gardener, head of the house, until someone asked why.

Why the sickness when this girl arrives? Who’s this party pooper?

Doctors traced it all to her, the pooper super duper!

They pointed to our (un)fair maiden, she, the source of all,

Soon tucking her away forevermore, behind four big stone walls.


Fast forward 95 years later, it’s two thousand and two

I’m working in a school and we’re all feeling sort of blue

The winter was upon us and everyone felt bleak.

What better way to beat the bleak than a delicious chocolate treat?

I scooped into the bowl of M and Ms and took out quite a few.

As I chewed the few, it dawned on me, all around me they KERCHOO’ed!

Four days later, alone in bed, I cursed that handful of sweet.

Sweating, barfing, shivering! The cold! The aches! The sheets…

I had found the icky Irish lassie (oh, how she made me moan!)

In a bowl of candy. Otherwise known as the HOT ZONE.


Now twelve years later, and I’ve a crew of my very own

I am cook, and laundress, and sometimes master of the home!

Last week late night I was sitting watching the movie “This is 40”

And I heard the sound we hate to hear, “Maaa-maaaa!”, a plea.

Padded feet went stumbling, then the choking sound of puke.

I ran to see him seated there, Scooby Doo pajamas, so cute.


There was vomit on the jim jams and some on the floor,

Then the gurgling and farting. But wait, THERE’S MORE!

So I put out my hand and he filled it with slime.

Then he smiled at me. He felt so much better, just fine.


Fiona Apple was playing on the TV below, “But I’m still sleepy,

Or am I dreaming? Keep it down.” Now I’m feeling weepy.

I cleaned him and changed him and tucked him in bed

With a pot for the puking, and layers of towels spread under his head.

The next day his sister was complaining, feeling icky.

She was minutes away from being the next sicky.

In the middle of the night I heard the call of the wild.

Now it was the other sister, Cindy Lou Who, dear child

Two days later, I staggered about, I took a nap

(NOTE: When Mom takes a nap, you know she feels like crap.)

But I awoke the next day, I moved on and pushed through.

Then… Dad got the sickness. Oh, god no. NOT YOU!

They say big trees fall the hardest, and what we yell is TIM-ber!

He was in bed for TWO FULL DAYS, no longer limber,

unable to eat, sweaty, slimy and sad.

FACT: No one feels as bad as a sick-in-bed dad.


And now finally, she’s moved on, working some other house to the bone.

When she comes knocking on your door, pull the shades, you are NOT AT HOME.

Say it now, say it loud. “Typhoid Mary, GO AWAY!

You are not welcome here. Wash your goddamn hands!” I say.


Says Alexander Pope, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast,”

With spring finally here now, I wish your home to be bless’d

With good health and long days, and walks in the sun

(But if you hear an Irish lass whisper, I recommend you run.)

(Fiona Apple singing So Sleepy, a mother’s vomiting anthem.)

10 comments on “Typhoid Mary, A Poem

  1. Margie S
    March 21, 2014

    A house full of kids is one giant, human petri dish. Glad to hear you all are on the mend!

    • jgroeber
      March 24, 2014

      Ha! So true. I feel like I can hear the bellies start to rumble when the stomach bug enters the room!

  2. talesfromthemotherland
    March 22, 2014

    Trés clever!

    • jgroeber
      March 24, 2014

      And very silly, too. But I’ve used the term “typhoid Mary” about a hundred times in the last four weeks. I felt like I needed to do her honor. But then again, not really. Ha!

  3. Heidi
    March 22, 2014

    You always make me laugh or cry or both. This was a laugh for me but quite sure a cry for you. Margaritas are on me at our next GNO!

    • jgroeber
      March 24, 2014

      Yes to margaritas! Boo to Typhoid Mary, that dirty birdie. And thank you for reading, busy bee. Looking forward to our next GNO!

  4. dvb415
    March 23, 2014

    Love it. Ode to vomit. TIM-ber was a nice touch.

    You are awesome

    • jgroeber
      March 24, 2014

      No, YOU are awesome for taking the time to read. Thank you so much. And with all the groaning and moaning in my house over the last two weeks it wasn’t going to be an Ode to Joy (wink, wink.) Loved seeing your comment. Thank you!

  5. kellylmckenzie
    March 24, 2014

    The ONLY difference when they get older and are puking is that they won’t let you take pics! Loved this. Where were you 15 years ago when I needed you?

    • jgroeber
      March 25, 2014

      Ha! Fifteen years ago I scoffed at the idea of becoming us (which is to say, vomit-holding mama-bears.) I was actually wise enough to know that it would push me beyond my limits, but foolish enough to think it wasn’t something magical. Leave it to a 28 year-old. Thank goodness I waited until I was 100 years old to have kids. And thank YOU for stopping by, Mama-blogger-extraordinaire. Come back real soon now, ya hear?

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