death, Grief, Guest Posts

I Miss My Mother Most At Five O’Clock.

November 28, 2014

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 By Teri Carter.

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 given me (as fast as possible) before she got home. I stayed with my grandparents in the summers. My mother would pick me up after work, but would sit for a spell at the kitchen table with my grandmother, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes and gossiping, until we went home, just the two of us. 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, 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 twenties, 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 new 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-thirties, 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. 

 

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Teri Carter’s essays can be found in Columbia, Post Road, West Branch, and other journals and anthologies. She has a B.A. from the University of Minnesota, where she was awarded the Marcella de Bourg Fellowship in creative writing, and she holds an MFA from San Jose State. Teri lives in Northern California.

Book Feb 14th, 2015 in London with Jen Pastiloff.

Book Feb 14th, 2015 in London with Jen Pastiloff.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above.

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6 Comments

  • Reply Suzy Vitello November 28, 2014 at 10:43 am

    We are so tied to time, I think. The family meal, and preparing the family meal. Rituals. My mother is one of those cooks who can make a gourmet meal from wilty, sad leftovers in the fridge. And I’m one of those people for whom a mom-cooked meal means the world.

  • Reply jenna November 28, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    hi Teri, I lost my mom when i was 25. my heart goes out to you. beautiful essay. sending you love, at 5 o’clock and always.

  • Reply nancy November 28, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Dear Teri ….. this is making me weepy. My dear mom is long gone, but through the preparation and offering of food to her family and others, she remains with me. What a delicious legacy!

    I have a paid catering job one day a week for friends who are having medical issues. They need a break from prepping food and want only to be served and fed a wholesome surprise gourmet meal. I’m doing it for fun. On leave from a different type of work, I am having the time of my life …. one of my imaginary dream professions come true. As I peruse recipes and prep and cook for my friends, I often chuckle with my mama, appreciating our shared devotion to food and how much we learned about each other as a result. Following my mom’s example, my dad took to experimenting with food also …. great breads and soups. All of their children (three of us) have a passion for good food and adventurous cooking.
    In my social world, the very best times are had around a table …. sharing good food, good wine and good company. It was my mama who awakened this appreciation.
    I miss her phone calls at suppertime asking me what I’m cooking. Those conversations were always about so much more.

    nancy

  • Reply Barbara Potter November 28, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    My heart goes out to you.

  • Reply elizabeth November 28, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    “I’d find myself in the kitchen alone around five, trying to figure out how to make a not-boring, edible dinner for my new 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.”
    OMG I could have written most of this. My mother died a year ago, and a few days ago, I poured a glass of wine, and stood in the kitchen trying to figure out what to make my kids for dinner, and for a split second I almost went to the computer to Skype my mom as I always used to. Just a split of a second before I realised oops ha! What was I thinking?! I hadn’t done that since she died. I always just knew, sadly, it wasn’t an option. But for that split second it was. And oh what a letdown a split second later when I realised my mistake.
    I miss her so much. She would turn 79 this Sunday (day after tomorrow).
    xo

  • Reply John February 23, 2018 at 8:21 am

    This is touching. Found your voice today by reading an article you wrote for the Post. Then went to your website, then linked to this article. Thank you for your bravery to write online and put your ideas and points of view out there.

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