Five O’Clock

old kitcen1-1


I miss my mother most at five o’clock.

When I was a kid and came home after school, the TV was my babysitter — Gilligan’s Island at 3:30 followed by The Brady Bunch followed by The Partridge Family — until five o’clock came and it was time to do the few chores my mother had left for me (as fast as possible) before she got home.  I stayed with my grandparents in the summers.  My mother, if she was working the right shift, the good 7 to 3 shift, would sit for an hour or so at the kitchen table with my grandmother, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes and gossiping, until we went home, just the 2 of us, around five.  As a teenager, I would dink around with friends after school, knowing I had to be home by five, that my mother would be waiting for me to help her with supper.  It was our time, our hour or two in the kitchen, just the two of us, before her new farmer husband came in from working in the field and the night became all about him.

I miss my mother most at five o’clock.

I remember being in my 20s, away from my hometown and working in cubicles and traveling all over the country.  Feeling successful, but untethered.  I called my mother at the end of most workdays.  Hey mom, what are you doing?  Nothing, what are you doing?  Going to grab some food, you?  Making supper.  When I got married, became a mom, and quit my job — all in about a 6 month span — I’d find myself in the kitchen alone around five, trying to figure out how to make a not-boring, edible dinner for my family of four.  Husband not home from work; kids doing homework or watching “The Simpsons”; and me pulling random items from the refrigerator.  I’d pour a glass of wine and call my mother.  Hey, mom, what are you doing?  Making supper.  Me, too, what are you making?  Chicken.  How are you making it?  Well … fried of course!  And we would laugh.

I miss my mother most at five o’clock.

In my mid-30s, I remember thinking that one good thing about having a sick mother was that she was always home, always there, to answer on the first ring.  I would start dinner, pour a glass of wine, and dial.  Hey mom, what are you doing?  Nothing, what are you doing?  Making dinner.  What are you making?  She was no longer able to cook, so she cooked vicariously through me.  Sometimes I lied and pretended I was making things I had no clue how to make — Chicken Cordon Bleu — to change up the conversation, to give us something else to talk about besides doctor appointments and inhalers and the shortening of time.  I’d even make up the ingredients, the steps, the ease of making something new; anything to distract us, to entertain.  All chicken, I would say, doesn’t need to be fried!  

I miss my mother most at five o’clock.

These days, when my husband and I decide we’re getting fat and it’s time to cut back, he will suggest skipping dinner.  Often I’ll agree:  what a great idea that is, we can just have a little snack, nothing big, you’re right.  But I never follow through.  I blame it on the clock.  On time.  It doesn’t matter if it’s winter or summer, daylight savings or dark by five, I pour my glass of wine and open the refrigerator door, ready to finish off the day the only way I know how.  It’s five o’clock.  What are you doing?  Making dinner. 



103 thoughts on “Five O’Clock

  1. Mary Lynne

    Oh Teri. Such a lump in my throat. I had so many of the same conversations with my mother — “what are you cooking for dinner?” “Ham and potatoes.” “Me too!” I’d give alot to have another one.

    1. Teri Post author

      Mary Lynne, I think so many of us women (girls) have this with our mothers. We cooked and talked about food when we could not, or would rather not, talk about what was going on around us.

  2. bruce

    So well written Teri….tugged at my heart strings……my mom was always making dinner at 5 too….we always ate about 5:30 when we were growing up…….I missed her as I started to read this, btu then I miss her all the time…my dad too and his “I’m home girls” as we all came running to the door to greet him…….xxxxxx

    1. Teri Post author

      I think of Joan Didion writing about how they made fires in the evening. Fires meant they were home, they’d drawn the circle, they were safe. The 5 o’clock hour is exactly that.

  3. lisahgolden

    This is so touching. You make me want to be different with my mother and my daughters. I suck at checking each day. I don’t know why it doesn’t occur to me to do it, but I’m going to try it and see if it becomes habit. I think there’s much to be gained from making that connection each day.

  4. amyg

    ahhh, teri, now i miss your mom too. i can’t help thinking of her reading this and smiling, finding joy in your memories — and, i say that knowing her only through your words, but damn – what words they are!

  5. donnaeve

    This was so poignant.

    Back when I was working in one of those cubicles you mention above, my phone on my desk rang and showed my mother’s number on the display. I was busy and mumbled,”Ah, she can wait.”

    Another day she called and I almost (almost) had the same reaction, except this time, for some reason, this thought popped in my head, “one of these days that number will never show up again.”

    Since then, I’ve tried to answer her calls, even if it’s just to say, “I have to call you back.”

    1. Teri Post author

      After my mother was gone, I tried to fit others into that slot, like my MIL. I soon learned that nobody on this earth will ever be as interested in me as my mother. I can be on the phone with MIL for 2 hours and she never even asks how I’m doing — not her fault, just a reality. I’m not hers.

  6. Maria Matthews

    A lovely mix of nostalgia and memories of your life together. My mum was a great cook no a fantastic cook. Her chocolate cake was infamous mine were sadly lacking but since her death they improved and the running joke is she is giving me tips from above.

      1. kaybaby1

        I still can’t cook as good as my mother did. She left at such a young age, I still talk5to her the only difference is I can’t hear her voice. I know we will be in a kitchen together again when its my time to leave.

  7. J

    This is a beautiful post and speaks to me because I call my mom every day at 5 o’clock…and when I get a busy signal, I keep trying till whomever she is talking to leaves my time slot! 😉

  8. vsperry

    Your post hit me squarely in between the eyes, as well as your comment later about how you’ve tried to “replace” her with your MIL only to realize that she doesn’t ask about you. I have had the same thing…my sisters come the closest to taking mom’s place but really, they have lives of their own they want to share. Whenever I asked mom what she was doing she would so…I’m drawing a blank…tell me about you. Gosh I miss her.

  9. ihaditallplanned

    This was beautiful. My mother passed nine years this month. It’s still hard. Thank you for sharing. Hope it gives you peace to write these stories.

  10. mollsnior

    This is so impactful. Although I cannot relate to the relationship you have with your mother, I get the feelings of warmth and comfort and ease and instantly becaome a little jelly 😉
    Very nice piece.

  11. tonyasmithauthor

    Hi Teri – you brought me back to a simpler time in life and a reminder of how fast we all go through the stages of life. We should reflect often on those things that matter the most to us…before they are gone.

  12. bipolaronfire

    What a beautiful tribute to your mother!! Very bittersweet. I am so sorry for your loss. But aren’t you grateful that you had such a Mommy-Mom? I know I am. It’s a gift that never stops giving.

  13. Joanna

    I’ve been thinking about my late mum a lot lately. How apt it is to come across your beautiful post. Now in my 50s I find myself doing so many little things she used to do around the house, and liking it! Thanks for writing this.

  14. asealskhaki

    My mum is a doctor and her shift ends at 6pm.. everyday at 5pm, 10 minutes after I reach home from college, she calls from the hospital and orders me to eat whatever it is that she had cooked earlier and kept in the fridge.
    Your post sent me into a sudden panic, because I realized that in two years I’ll be away at a university and my mum will no longer call me at 5.
    Nevertheless, this is beautiful.

  15. margber

    Reblogged this on Being Margaret and commented:
    I grew up in the 70’s. It was a day and age when elementary school aged kids got up early, ate breakfast and ran out the front door of their suburban homes, hopped on their Schwinn bikes and headed out for the day to meet up with friends who lived down the block or around the corner. Or, across the way into the next neighborhood.

    There were softball, baseball and kickball games played on dirt lots in neighborhoods that were not quite completely developed yet, making for great meeting spaces. …..”I’ll meet you on the dirt lot” …

    We played four-square on driveways where we drew the lines for the game in chalk. There was tether-ball and hopscotch and tag. There were always groups of boys in the neighborhood playing basketball at each others houses. The basketball nets were mounted off of the part of the roof that hung over the garage.

    There were no computers or cell phones. There was no cable TV or MTV. Gameboys, Video Gaming and X-box systems were still many years away from being created by Microsoft. In fact, there was no Microsoft. Bill Gates was an unknown name. And Apple, well, that was a fruit you ate. We played outdoor everyday, all day long, often not showing up back home again until supper time.

    For the most part, our moms stayed home and our Dads went to work. Later, as we grew into our Jr High years, some of the Mom’s started going back to work to help pay the high cost of raising a big family. And, families were big back then. Or, seemed to be. Maybe it was because I grew up in a mainly Irish or Italian, catholic area. Most of my friends came from families of at least 4 – 5 kids. And, it was not unusual to have friends that had 6 or 7 siblings.

    Those were good days. Simple. Carefree. Easy. They were days when you formed unbreakable, life-long bonds with friends.

    There were strong family bonds and daily routines that help to cement the family together. Chores on the weekends. Getting home from school, having a snack, playing outside for a while with friends or watching one of the 4 channels on TV we had. Then, helping out by starting dinner before your Mom got home from work. Dinner in my home was always promptly at 6pm. Every night.

    These simple times, these family bonds, were all tools that helped to form the adults we are today. They strengthened the ties between Dad and sons, as well as Moms and daughters. The family structure was well built and strong. I miss those easy days.

    I ran across a blog this week that brought back memories of the 70’s flooding back. They made me think about my siblings and friends from the old neighborhood, as well as my parents. Especially my Mom. Our bond was unshakable. We were close. Not so much through the teen years, which in my eyes, is a normal part of growing up, but more so after I left for college and especially when I got married and we lived states apart. I miss my siblings and my parents. These days, I miss my Mom. So much so that I find myself thinking about her day and night. So when I read this blog Im about to share, I smiled. I realized that those ties between a Mom and Daughter are never broken. The bond between a Mother and child is universal. And deep.

  16. Pingback: Growing up 70’s | Being Margaret

  17. M.T.W.CG

    This really his home. 5:00 was the magic hour to be home and eat dinner. In the fall, the streetlights would start to come on and I knew to be home. It’s hard to give up that magic dinner hour, even as I get older. Due to our busy lives as a family, our magic hour is closer to 6:00. But as I’m making dinner each night around 5:00, I think of my mother. I miss her every day. Great post!

  18. Jennifer

    Beautiful story. Five o’clock…the magical time of day when memories are created and held dear in our hearts…our thoughts and feelings of how we handled the business of the day, all our shortcomings, all our successes, conveyed to our mothers.

  19. seraphina8

    Beautiful. I sometimes, in the busyness of life, forget how meaningful small rituals like that can be. Thank you for reminding me to make more of them happen for my children.

  20. CTB

    I read this thinking gosh a mother’s life can be so interesting… As a new mom I feel like as a kid I was a horrible daughter because now I have a glimpse of what
    It’s like to be in her shoes… Becoming a mom has helped me to cherish my own

  21. Julia C

    This is beautiful. It makes me miss family dinners and simpler times of childhood dependence. Will definitely forward this on to my mother.

  22. Kathy Simmons

    Just beautiful. Reminds me of phone calls with my father. He was confined to a reclining chair when his legs gave out due to congestive heart failure and his refuge was the telephone. He loved to call us (his adult four daughters) on the telephone. My sisters would often comment that they felt guilty for rushing him off the phone when they were busy, as he often called for no reason. But I never hung up first. Each day he called, he asked one question above all…”Have you seen any beasties today Kath?” “Beasties” was a Scottish term of endearment for any living animal, which he loved one and all. My home overlooks a beautiful flat nature preserve and there would often be flocks of wild turkeys in our yard. My father adored the turkeys. I miss my father most when I see wild turkeys.

  23. barbfirth

    I feel the same, although for me it’s Fridays. As she got older, I would pick her up on Fridays and we would zip out to Walmart for a “few” items. Two hours later, I’d drop her off with bags filling the back seat of things she didn’t really need, and I’d go home with the trunk full. It wasn’t so much about needing items, but now I see it was the time spent. She passed away in APRIL, on a Friday. Ever since, Fridays have been, and continue to be the hardest day of the week, with little to no enjoyment for me. I miss her every minute of every day. Your story is lovely and heartwarming.

  24. chellyk

    This was so sweet. You are so blessed to have that kind of bond with your mother. I hope I can have such a great bond with my children. Thank you for posting!

  25. Gail

    This brought tears here and made me sure miss my mother. I often feel closest to my deceased mother when I’m in the kitchen, especially when I’m cooking with her dishes, using her rolling pin, making one of her recipes, or holding an old pot holder of hers. I miss calling her too.

    You’re writing is beautiful.

  26. BevinneMcMo

    That is ultra-sweet. 🙂 I miss the smell of Clorox and spaghetti on Monday afternoons when I would come home from school. The Clorox would smack me in the face when I walked in from the -20 below weather outside to inside where it smelled of Mom. I used to call her every weekend … unlike the rest of the siblings … ah Mom 🙂

  27. BevinneMcMo

    Reblogged this on Bevinne McMo and commented:
    I miss my Mom most whenever I think of her … which is quite often. But Clorox and spaghetti sauce or beef soup will bring her memory back to me quickly also.

  28. tojoelle

    What a coincidence to see your post at this time of the year when I miss my mom most. What you wrote is just beautiful.

  29. My Life After Kids (Kathi Ostrom)

    I have a lump in my throat. What a beautiful post. I miss having my mom as close as the end of the phone line. She was my greatest cheerleader and I still find myself wanting to pick up the phone to share my news after 3 years have gone by.

  30. Emilio Pasquale

    How can you miss something you never had? Easy. I never had a relationship like this with my mother OR father. I can’t say I miss my mom or will miss my dad, any more than I would miss any other relative that has passed. But I sure miss a relationship like this!

  31. th3gypcnom@d

    My mother and I, we don’t have a time, but we always say, I love you, even when we fight, we always end everything on a good note. Thank you for reminding me, to continue to love my mother. : )

  32. dicastlewriter

    A fantastic read. I also lost my mother when I was young. My baby was 6 months old. I miss her when I enjoy my grandchildren as she never could enjoy hers. I think I now have a blog inspired by yours. I do hope life is kind to you now. I love your posts!

  33. Moore to ponder

    This post is really special. It captured something beautiful and timeless. When I go to the grocery store I take my grandmother with me. She went to Heaven years ago, but there she is with me as I push the cart, laughing and telling me her little secrets about what I should buy. This post touched me that same way.



  34. Von Buchetto

    Wonderful blog post.Thank you just for making this kind of insightful posting and informative us with the feelings.I really hope you are going to proceed this great work in future also.

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