Mama Bird’s Egg Custard

By Kim Seeley

I married the baby of the family. I should have known what I was getting into, but I jumped headlong into a relationship with a 27 year old handsome, kind, intelligent, good man, a fellow teacher, who just happened to be the youngest of four siblings. I am the oldest of four siblings. My family position did nothing to prepare me for the emotional turmoil I was about to witness as I robbed Mama Bird of her baby.

The first problem was that my husband had returned to his childhood home after finishing college and lived there until the day we returned to our new duplex from our honeymoon. Mama Bird had grown dependent on her 27 year old baby boy for companionship and conversation. Now, mind you, Daddy Bird was still in the picture; he was simply a rather reticent man, and Mama Bird got more information out of her baby.

Problem number two was that much of Mama Bird’s life had centered around cooking special meals for Baby Bird and doing Baby Bird’s laundry. I had no concept of the importance of laundry until the day of our engagement. Upon showing my future mother-in-law my new diamond ring, she burst into tears. “Now I won’t be ironing his shirts anymore!” She sobbed, inconsolable, despite my offers to bring the laundry over to her. We had a short engagement, choosing to be married the following month in order to set up our house before school started in the fall. All five weeks of my engagement were fraught with tears, all of them belonging to Mama Bird.

I was thankful for my sister-in-law, the oldest sibling. She tried reasoning with her mother. “Mama, do you want Wayne to be alone for the rest of his life? Don’t you want him to have a family?”

Mama Bird refused to answer the question. Her reply focused on one area of interest. “What am I going to do without Wayne around the house? Who will I have to talk to?” I’m sure there were other comments that my future sister-in-law was too kind to pass on to me. I know that my housekeeping and cooking abilities were suspect from day one, and rightly so. I knew very little about either.

My wedding day arrived. It rained – which I have always heard was an unlucky omen – but thirty-five years of marriage have been undaunted by that storm. No, it wasn’t the rain from the heavens that shadowed our wedding day – it was the rain from my mother-in-law’s eyes. To her credit, she didn’t have an actual outburst during the ceremony; she managed to quietly weep into her handkerchief the entire time. Nevertheless, she made it through the ordeal, and we took off for our honeymoon in the mountains of Virginia.

We had a pleasant honeymoon, visiting the caverns, hills and valley towns along the Shenandoah Parkway. Upon our return, my new in-laws paid us a visit, bringing along an extra wedding present – an Electrolux vacuum cleaner. I took that as the sign it was intended to be – a sign that my husband was used to a clean house, and it was my responsibility to see that he had one.

A few days later, my husband became ill. He took to the bed, feverish and achy, moaning and miserable. “Do you need a doctor?” I asked. He didn’t think so; it was probably a virus. I tried out my new wifely responsibilities. “What can I get you? Do you want me to make some Jell-O? Do you want some chicken soup? What can I do to help?” My new husband turned up his nose at all of my profferings. The entire day passed with my husband refusing to eat. The next day, he showed little sign of improvement. I was desperate. I picked up the phone and called Mama Bird.

“What? Wayne is sick? Wayne hasn’t been sick in years!” I could hear the recriminations in her voice. My husband had received perfect attendance certificates all the way through school. He hadn’t used one single sick day in six years. I had done this. I had made him sick. He had never been sick when she was taking care of him. “I’ll be over in a little while. I’ll get him to eat.” I hung up. I prodded my husband once again to eat a little Jell-O or pudding. Nothing doing.

A few hours later, the doorbell rang. I opened the door to find Mama Bird with some sort of dish in her hands. She set the dish on the stove and immediately went to check on her baby. “What is wrong? Why aren’t you eating? Do you have a temperature?” Mama Bird needed no real response. “I brought you something that should do the trick. I know how fond you are of egg custard.”

Mama Bird went to the kitchen and scooped some of her homemade egg custard in a bowl. She returned to the bedroom, bearing her offering. I waited for my ill, grumpy husband to refuse it, knowing that he had no appetite. I watched in disgust as he feebly lifted his head from the pillow and opened his mouth for Mama Bird to shovel in some egg custard. I was livid, furious beyond all belief. This man, my husband, had refused all of my offers of food for over twenty-four hours. I needed some air.

Making sure that Mama Bird was going to hover over Baby Bird until I returned, I took the car for a spin. I needed to calm down. I had never heard of egg custard as being grounds for divorce, but this might establish a precedent. “What?” I could hear the judge question my husband. “You refused all of your new wife’s offerings and then sat up in bed and ate your mother’s egg custard! How dare you? Divorce granted on grounds of cruel and unusual punishment.” Surely the people in the courtroom would cheer me on as I left with my decree. “New wife wins divorce in egg custard case!” the headlines would proclaim.

I calmed down and returned to our new duplex. I checked in on my husband and found Mama Bird sitting by the bed, placing cool cloths on my feverish husband. She was happier than she had been in weeks. Her baby still needed her. All was right in the world. I ignored the Electrolux vacuum cleaner and sat down on the sofa to read a novel. Weaning Baby Bird might take some effort, but we had plenty of time. Now, what page was I on?

About this writer

  • Kim Seeley Kim Seeley, a former librarian and English teacher, lives with her husband, Wayne, in Wakefield, Virginia. She is a frequent contributor to Sasee and Chicken Soup for the Soul. Her most recent story, “Amanda’s Jonquils,” can be found in Chicken Soup: Messages from Heaven. She loves to read, play the piano, travel and spend time with her grandson, Evan.

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6 Responses to “Mama Bird’s Egg Custard”

  1. Lynn Obermoeller says:

    Glad all of you little birdies are doing fine. Sweet story.

  2. This was laugh out loud funny.

  3. Debbie Salomonsky says:

    Oh, how I identified with this story. Oldest child + Youngest Child = Adjustment!

    As always, a delightful essay!

  4. Pam says:

    Loved the humor in this!

  5. Jane says:

    I think one of your best yet!

  6. Maura Troy says:

    Hee hee! This made me laugh. I hope the weaning process has been completed! :)

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