Saturday, May 31, 2014

More Learning from Memory Lane: Transiting Jupiter in the 4th House

 An Astro-Memoir - Part 2 of 2

© 2014 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

Parents Mary and Lou Mason circa 1961

In Part 1 of this trip down memory lane, I identified these ingredients that made up my happy childhood home:

·       Parents who were there for me
·       A home with an open door and a family with open hearts
·       A sense of belonging
·       My own room, time and space
·       Tidy and organized household
·       A positive attitude toward progress and technology
·       Close friendships, and
·       Pets as family

Here’s the rest of the recipe.

Rituals. My mom was huge on celebrating birthdays. She had a calendar in her head that wouldn’t quit, as accurate in its notations as the one on the wall. Even though I’m adopted, I “inherited” this tendency. I’m sure it’s partly why astrology appealed to me, as I already had people’s birthdays etched into memory. There was always a party, always an excuse for gatherings whether baby showers, first communions, going-away parties and so on. Less “fancy” rituals were gathering at a specific time on a specific day to watch certain TV shows as a family. The one that stands out most for me was Your Hit Parade on Saturday nights. I can still see us hovered around the small-screen, black-and-white TV, sitting on vintage early American furniture with reddish plaid cushions, munching popcorn from bowls and enjoying the tunes. It would be much later in life that I’d come to know how important routine is to security, that these rhythms of daily life support us. That’s why moving is hard for me. It disrupts the rhythm, even from something as simple as Mom’s predictable pasta fazule on meatless Fridays.

Joyce leads the "Dutch girls" singing Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer
Katzenellenbogen by the Sea
at one of Mrs. Eva 

Lambright's annual recitals.

Music. Even though neither of them were musical themselves, my parents stretched the budget to give me voice lessons, piano lessons, tap and ballet. Although I tired of dancing much faster than singing, voice and piano were integral parts of my childhood, another example of my parents’ intuitive take on who I am and how they sensed ways to encourage me to become myself, even without an instruction manual.

Middle-class. We always had what we needed, even some of what we wanted. We were seldom “flush,” but I really learned that it was OK not to have the fanciest clothes or everything I wanted. Sometimes this seemed difficult to me as a child, but “money isn’t everything” was a tremendous orientation that followed me into adulthood. As it was, Dad worked long and hard hours. I missed him when he was gone so much. He often did overtime on Saturdays, even sometimes on Sundays. I think my parents truly weighed the downside of excessive work, including its impact on family time. This internal scale has kept me from throwing out happiness for more materiality—more than once. I don’t think I realized till now how deeply I “got” that there are hidden costs to making more and more money. My Libran mom’s Scales of Balance still weigh these issues for me now—and my own planets in Libra also resonate.

Religion without fanaticism. My mom insisted I go to Catholic school. She even refused to send me to a public kindergarten, as our parish school started in first grade. (I always felt culturally deprived about skipping “K,” and I think I’d have had a smoother transition to grammar school with all the things you learn in kindergarten about cut-and-paste and playground etiquette.)

That said, and though her Italian roots made Catholicism important to her, my mom was more into religion for its guidance in my upbringing and the moral code it gave her as an adult than any big personal spiritual journey—or so it appeared. She clearly loved God on her own terms, but she wasn’t into the trappings of religion. In fact, when family friends would go off the deep end doing endless novenas and rosaries, mom would label them “fanatics.” I definitely got that fanaticism was not a good idea, and any time in my life when I’ve gone through spurts of excessive religiosity, the memory of her Libran Scales in this regard unconsciously brought me back once more to her level-headed reality.

My dad only stepped toe in a church to have their wedding “blessed” to make Mom happy, as they had eloped and married in a civil ceremony. He didn’t feel he had to go to church to know God or be a good person. This also affected me deeply, and in essence, any struggles I had with religion were between me and the Church, not between me and my parents. Since I had plenty of painful issues with the Church, they had little to do with disturbing the peace of my happy childhood home. What a blessing, this separation of Church and my overall state of happiness.

 In the backyard at my First Communion party with
neighbors Judy and Kenny Mills and my Aunt Ginny
(mom's sis) in the background smoking

Pride in work and work highly valued. Doing my best was ingrained in me, partly because of the pride my parents took in their work, both inside and outside the home. My dad was extremely respected as a mechanic at a major building demolition company. The family who owned the business counted on him, held him in trust and esteem. That sent an incredible message about working conditions as I grew into an adult. It was all right to work hard but not without that built-in respect. Whether it was how I mopped the floor, how Mom set a pin curl once she became a beautician (remember those?), or how I colored in my coloring book, good work was a matter of being the best you and a matter of pride.

Play as work.  Before we leave the topic of work, a child’s work is play. Play is something that can go missing from adulthood too easily, much less its combo with work. Because of the configuration of my youth—raised as an “only” till my parents started taking in foster kids when I was six—I had to learn a lot about having fun all by myself. (My brother was 16 years older and left home at 17, hardly leaving a mark on my earliest childhood.) Also, being the oldest child in the neighborhood contributed to this configuration. When the next child in age is two years younger, you don’t have a lot in common—for instance, when you’re six and he’s four. My childhood was a petri dish for Virgo self-containment and to this day, I can amuse myself very easily. With the Virgo love of work, it didn’t take me long as a grown-up to insist that if it wasn’t fun, I wasn’t playing.

“Showy” affection. I grew up with an abundance of hugs, kisses; I love yous and other spontaneous shows of affection. I don’t think I ever doubted my parents’ love for me for a single second, even when we were very angry with each other.

Laughter.  I have made many references many times on this and my other blogs to what funny people my parents were. Our life was a situation comedy. I talked about this on a humorous mystery panel at a writing conference recently. Humor is a decision, a worldview—a way of coping with life. I couldn’t begin to count the laughter that punctuated our days and nights and how important it was to surviving the ups, downs and sideways that inevitably hit our home life. Each parent had his or her own brand of funny, and a little of both their styles of humor rubbed off on me. Laughter isn’t just a survival skill; it’s a “thrival” skill.

They Were Only Human: What Didn’t Work

Even though I’d give them an A overall as parents, Mom and Dad made their mistakes. The secrecy about my adoption was perhaps the biggest one; especially given I had to learn this fact of my life literally in the street from someone I barely knew. It caused me a decade of ongoing angst. It’s easy to forgive them, knowing they were acting from what they felt was for my own good and protection—and to assuage their own insecurity. Their vulnerability about my love for them is more touching than the misguided way they chose to protect our bond. Back then, adopted children were treated differently, and their concern for my fitting in and not being made fun of were sadly too real.

My mom had a hot, “Italian temper,” as she used to say. (We’d call it Aries Moon.) She scared her little Venus Girl half to death with it at times. I was not wired for her outbursts and fits, and sometimes they almost made me shake in my Mary Janes. However, I have to say they had an upside: I had no prohibitions about self-expression with a mom who said or yelled what she felt when she felt it. Even if they didn’t like what I said, my parents weren’t into stifling me. And oddly, I could pitch a fit as well as she could, but it wasn’t scary on the giving end—only on the receiving side.

Lastly, the one thing that my parents were—over-the-top compassionate—was both a blessing and a curse. It took me a long time in life to learn that being such a bleeding heart causes hemorrhages to my own life force. I was wired to be an enabler and to attract men that needed AA more than they needed me. However, given the alternative, I’d rather be over-wired for compassion and have to figure out how to tone it down as an adult than to be raised as someone who doesn’t care about others.

Reviewing the Checklist

Now that I’ve listed the major ingredients of my happy childhood, I feel a lot better to have discovered that I actually have almost all of them in abundance in my own home now. The ones that could add more to quality of life are ones that can easily be fixed—such as more music, a cleaner and better organized home. (Once we move and have better cash flow, cleaning help will be my #1 priority.) Even if I had discovered more serious omissions comparing home now to home then, I’d be able to assess and move on toward a better recreation of my joy as a kid.

Sometimes we’re already happier than we know. We’re just not seeing and fully appreciating what’s right in front of us. Even while there's room for improvement, it was good to conclude that I took my happy childhood home with me more than I ever realized.

Who knew moving would lead
to this?

As you can guess, our move on the cusp of my 12th birthday and in the middle of puberty was ill-timed and traumatic for me. I was very popular at school and had my life wired in Oak Lawn. I was in deep denial about our relocation, lobbied by my brother who was then living in Evanston on the North Side of Chicago. He wanted us nearby—next door in fact. I kept clinging to “might” move till the For Sale sign went up. Even at my going-away party, thrown by my friends, I kept insisting we still might not go. The house sold almost instantaneously.

On reflection from adulthood, my parents took all the ingredients with us and recreated our home on the North Side with the same qualities. Deep in my psyche, as a person who had been taken from her first 4th house by adoption, my subconscious, primal fear of what this move meant was stronger than the realities around me.

Little did I know then that I’d meet in Catholic school in Evanston at age 12 the man I’d marry at 50. Children are very near-sighted while Spirit has the view from the mountain.


 And much later to  this on our mutual
Chiron Return?

You Can’t Go Home Again—or Can You?

My happy childhood home is prominent in my dreams. I even dreamt in the last year that it was available for sale. I bought it immediately! I hated bursting that bubble by waking up the next morning.

When I visited the old homestead in 1988, the couple who then owned it—the Browns [1]—were as welcoming as my parents would have been to any stranger with an interest in them or their home. It was comforting to know such lovely people followed us in this place I considered as sacred as a church. They showed me around, and it was amusing how small the house seemed to me as a grown-up. I had been much smaller when I last lived there; thus the house felt bigger. At that juncture, there had been some improvements on the interior, but the exterior was much the same as it had been in autumn of 1959 when we moved to Evanston. I left feeling very good about the keepers of my happy childhood home.

However, when Arlene visited recently, what stunned me about the picture were the big physical changes to the property. The garage was gone. That no one had reconstructed another seemed insane to me in a climate that gets below zero on a regular basis in winter. The patio we built attached to the garage was gone with it. The second side lot that made our home turf seem so big to a little kid had been sold and another house erected. The pine trees that graced the entryway were long gone, even on my visit in 1988. There were speed limit signs and other evidence of suburban sprawl besides closer placed houses due to the elimination of those secondary lots.

Curious, I went to some realty sites to get more history on the house. It had been for sale not long ago (as I dreamt), thus there were photos available of the interior. Major changes there, too.

Ultimately, I had to understand, it was just the shell. Everything that happened there indeed was portable. And I guess, as someone growing older and facing her mortality more each day, we have to understand the same thing about ourselves. Our body is just the house we live in now. The qualities that make it a home—that make us us—come with us into the next incarnation and into the next adventure.

Doing this process has made me feel better about my “rather die than do,” which moving has always been for me. If you follow suit and find your happy childhood formula, I hope you reap as many benefits as I have from this journey … and that sharing my process inspires you to try it for yourself.


Photos from family albums.


[1] I just realized the irony that our second home in Evanston was on Brown St. The house in Oak Lawn was made of brown brick, Brown being the name of the next family to live in my childhood home.



LB said...

Joyce ~ Maybe it's because I haven't known very many people who had (relatively) healthy, happy childhoods, but for whatever reason, I really enjoyed reading your story and looking at your photographs. Thanks for sharing Parts 1 and 2.:)

Though I know your childhood wasn't without its share of challenges, how blessed you and your loved-ones were to have found one another in this lifetime. I love that you felt safe and loved and also how your folks took in foster kids (and sisters at that) who stayed for good - yay!

All the best with your big move.

Joyce Mason said...

Hi, LB--

Glad you enjoyed walking down Memory Lane with me. I am so thankful for my parents' love and example. Thanks for your ongoing support and for being a loyal reader of The Radical Virgo.