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.


Friday, May 30, 2014

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

 An Astro-Memoir - Part 1 of 2

© 2014 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

Dad, the family pets and me: The front porch of Home Sweet Home - 1951

I was recently both elated and horrified after a family friend took a nostalgia trip to our old neighborhood in Oak Lawn, Illinois. She took photos of the houses where we grew up. I had not seen my happy childhood home since my last pilgrimage to the old homestead when I visited Chicago in 1988.

Elation came from the flood of happy memories. As she embarked on this visit, Arlene said that the happiest times in her life were spent in our old neighborhood. Same here. I was blessed with a childhood full of love, friendship and security. Horror came from how much the house and property had changed—and from a fear that I might never again know the level of happiness I experienced in and around that little brick home in a newly developing suburb of Chicago where I lived with my family from ages three to twelve.

I have touched that joy at other times. But what if I could really “live there” for good? I’m overall a happy and upbeat person, thanks to that sweet upbringing. What I felt there was nothing short of a sense that the whole world supported me, that the worst thing I ever had to heal from was a spat with a neighbor kid or a relative that somehow always got smoothed over in the end. It was a time of innocence and magic … and seeing how the physical house and neighborhood has changed was a visual metaphor for how time changes us all.

These memories sent me on a mission to define what it was about my childhood that contributed to the formula for such happiness. What a wonderful process for anyone whose 4th House is about to be visited by Jupiter, a transit that at its best could support  the recreation of a joyful childhood. Anyone can walk down memory lane and take notes from your older, wiser self on what made you happy—and what didn’t.

Because even if your childhood wasn’t a walk in the park, revisiting it while Jupiter is transiting your 4th House or aspecting your Moon can also help you uncover or rediscover your own formula for happiness. [1] Identifying what didn’t work and what was lacking is a back door into rebirthing your happy, inner child. We learn continually in life from those who show us what to do—and those show us what not to do.

One of my favorite quotes is by author Tom Robbins,“It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” My visit to mine is an invitation and encouragement to you to find your happy childhood, whether or not you had one in the first place.

How I could recreate what I had there? For starters, I’d have to figure out in detail what really led to that sense of joy, security and support. Second, I’d have to recognize that childhood and the wisdom years are not the same thing, that I may not be able to reconstruct an exact parallel. We never again get a pass on things like making a living and the other big responsibilities we get to avoid, usually only once in a lifetime, as children. Still, I’m at the age where I have developed the skills to create my own reality. As I’ve also been anticipating a move within the year from my current, beloved house of sixteen years to one that’s more accessible for my husband’s mobility issues, I need to be clear on what makes a house a happy home. The quest feels urgent to help me let go of one home and to embrace another.

I really get it’s not the house that makes us happy, it’s how we create a home from the love, memories,  rituals and other “stews” of life that bubble in the background of the place we call home. These ingredients are portable. Now to reconstruct my parents’ amazing recipe.

Our home in the 1950s
The house in 2014

Did My Home Support My Identity Reflected in My Chart or Does My Birth Chart Reflect My Childhood? (Or Both?)

Looking back with the eyes of an astrologer, my earliest memories are of my favorite age—three. Our neighborhood was sparsely populated with a lot of “prairie,” a term 1950s refugees from the city called empty lots overgrown with weeds, which I now find hilarious for its hyperbole.  Yet to me it was the wide open spaces, especially from my shrimpy stature. This concept was enhanced by our village’s annual Round-Up. This Wild West themed event celebrated the bad rumor that Oak Lawn was once a hideout for horse thieves. [2]

The way Oak Lawn went all out for this event with celebrities like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans appearing in the parade on horseback with other heroes, local and national, it’s no wonder I was destined someday to move to California. The dye was cast for me to catch the same pioneering spirit behind the Westward Ho Movement that preceded me by a century, re-enacted at the Round-Up once every formative year.

Because it was a safe neighborhood during the era of Father Knows Best and Ozzie and Harriet, my mom felt comfortable letting me roam around and play without checking on me more than every couple of hours. This was heaven on earth to a Sun square Uranus.  I felt so free. My earliest memories were of openness. I was the oldest kid in the neighborhood at first. I felt like the queen of this vast kingdom.

On the other hand, when it came to anything beyond the boundaries of our neighborhood, Mom became my Capricorn Moon incarnate. She wouldn’t allow me to walk the mile to my parochial school like other kids did. She insisted on driving me and later signed me up for the bus. It was embarrassing when other kids asked why I took the bus such a short distance. (“My mom makes me.”) I loved blaming her. It was the ultimate in getting me off the hook for her overprotective and anxiety-driven behavior that made me stick out like a sore thumb. (Didn’t every kid understand how moms could be?)

In fact, the bus driver dropped me off last so I had to waste time riding the entire route. The dangers my mother worried about were very diffuse (Neptune square Moon). They were something she never really explained. While I was free to roam within our block and a bit beyond, I was stymied to go further until I was much older. I was always pushing the limit, and Mom was never generous with her comfort zone. Our double lot and block were a wide turf to me till I reached school age. They started to shrink in vastness as I grew taller. They felt more confining. Saturn in the 4th.

Danger in the Safe Zone

Unfortunately, my mom didn’t realize that there were dangers lurking in the safe zone, too. Meet Pluto conjunct Saturn in the 4th. When I was eight years old, I experienced the one major earthquake in my otherwise wonderful childhood. One day when I was visiting Judy Jennings about half-way down our block, she told me that my foster sister Susie claimed I was adopted. “But I don’t think it’s true,” Judy said. “If it were, your parents wouldn’t buy you that nice bicycle.”

This rocked my world and my being to the core. I’m not sure I’ve ever completely recovered from the shock. Perhaps it’s also an expression of Uranus square Sun; a child who grows up living with and living through a shocking experience.

I’ll save most of the details for my book-length memoir, but suffice it to say, here’s where my being so mental and Virgo-analytical saved me. At the tender age of eight, I had to figure out why my parents lied to me about myself and why the truth was horrible, dangerous or whatever was underneath the secrecy. Worse, I had to wrap my still developing brain around the idea that they weren’t my “real” parents. This felt inconceivable; I was so bonded to them. [3]

But I “got” right away that we were not supposed to talk about it—or they would have already. We talked endlessly about everything else. After a couple of months of 24/7 ruminating (I’m sure I even dreamt about it), I eventually intuited that my parents didn’t want to talk about my adoption for fear it would change things between us in some essential way.

I kept my knowledge of that dark secret about myself until I was eighteen—for the next ten years. It was the shadow of my childhood.

Treasures in My Memory Bank

Despite the gnawing secret of my adoption—I’d identify its root of original abandonment much later in life as my Chironic wound—there was so much good that compensated for it and made my childhood otherwise happy. Here are some of the major ingredients I discovered about what made my home happy.

There for me. What I had as a child might be difficult to recreate in families today where two incomes are often essential and life is so much more complicated. I had a stay-at-home mom till I was twelve. My parents were always there for me. I had a baby sitter once or twice in my life, and I’m sure it was for very good reasons and only a close family friend. I could count on my Mom and Dad without question. I know the sense of someone being there for you is what we all crave, but in my case, it was literal. That had its shadow, too. I was a bit too sheltered.

Biological sisters to each other, Janet (L) and Loretta (Lottie)
are my foster sisters who stayed forever. Hot Dog!

An open door—and open hearts. Our house had a huge welcome mat. Can’t say I remember the literal one, but the figurative one must have taken up a block or two. My parents took in strays—foster children, friends’ kids who were in trouble, their own son/my much older brother whenever he was in his latest jam. They had hearts as big as all outdoors, as big as I felt my neighborhood kingdom was for me when I was little. They were the soul of Neptunian compassion. I could always expect kindness at home and empathy to others’ problems and concerns. My parents had a deep commitment to making as many people happy as possible, and they succeeded by leaving those people still feeling their kindness and warmth long after they were gone.

A sense of belonging. It says a lot that I felt such belonging; it was a shock to learn that Mom and Dad weren’t my biological parents. The other thing it taught me is that you don’t have to be kin to “feel a part of.” Mom and Dad did such a good job; it wasn’t until my late twenties that I realized the essential differences between my adoptive family and me. The differences mostly had to do with culture and interests. I was “naturally wired” to love literature, writing, the arts, etc. Mom and Dad were not interested in these things and barely kept Reader’s Digest and the newspaper in the house, though they greatly encouraged my education from that ‘50s desire to give your children more than you had. Within my adoptive family, I was the first person to go to college. I was a white collar kid growing up in a blue collar family, but it really never mattered since they still gave me the space to bloom into the flower I am.

My own room, time and space.  I didn’t have to share a bedroom most of my childhood. I had no idea until I grew up the importance of this “personal space” in supporting my essence as a Uranus square Sun individual. My blonde youth bed was special ordered for me, and it starred in my favorite Taurus Rising food fantasy. I had seen on TV the automats in New York, a series of windows and compartments where a person could open any glass door and choose whatever food they wanted. I imagined an automat in my youth bed headboard, where I could have my favorite comfort foods pop out at the press of a button: chicken soup with buttered saltines for dunking, fresh corn on the cob, cherry pie … (Stop me before my Weight Watchers compliance is as far off as my youth.) I used to love to read in my room and explore the “cubby hole” in my closet, a storage space that opened via a tacked-on aluminum flap. There I found my grandfather’s notary public seal, one of the first Brownie box cameras owned in my extended family and other memorabilia in cardboard boxes, treasured only for their sentimental value. (This is probably the genesis of my “Fibber McGee’s” closet and packrat tendencies, though I’d later learn they were also genetic from my birth family.) My personal childhood space was an incubator for learning, learning to think and exploring mysteries (Jupiter in Scorpio).

Tidy and organized. While I always considered my mother a clean freak, it was mostly her insistence on my participation in early morning housekeeping detail that I hated, especially on Saturdays when I could have slept in. I actually loved the results, as any Virgo would—but I took them for granted. I don’t remember dust balls, clutter or anything other than a well-kept and maintained interior and exterior, slightly smelling of Lysol several times a week. This became an unwitting standard I’ve had a hard time living up to, but I realize it’s the only way I feel comfortable. (Insight: This is why I love living in hotels, even if only for a few days at a time. It’s living the Mom Way without the work.)

A positive attitude toward progress and technology. My parents were gismo junkies. They were always interested in finding and trying a better mousetrap. They were the first to buy the fancy Princess telephones or to deck the house out in light turquoise and yellow fiberglass awnings, which on reflection looked cheesy, even if they kept out the hot summer sun. I’m sure we were the first on the block with color TV, and our TV sets themselves always pushed the limits of what we could afford. This set a tone that’s with me still today. I’m not afraid of what’s next when it comes to conveniences, and I value how they make life work better. This, in fact, has been a yummy leftover of the happiness pie for me as a baby boomer, needing to embrace fast-paced technology to do what I do and even, as Bill Maher recently said, “to be in the conversation.” I’m not techno-phobic like some people in my age group.

Close friendships. My parents had many friends, but a few close friends who were regarded as family. Arlene, at the beginning of this story, was one of the two daughters of their best friends, Mick and June Clegg. Aunt June and Uncle Mick’s other daughter, Theresa, was my best friend growing up. Theresa and I were the same age, born only six months apart. Sons Mike, Marty and Billy rounded out the Clegg family of five that extended our own by that many. Mom and Dad modeled how to be great friends, one of their gifts to me that keeps on giving. The one thing I could never live without are my friends.

Pets as Family. I could regale you for hours with “tails” of our four-leggers. I grew up primarily with boxer dogs, the veterans named Duchess and Lady, shown in the opening photo. I could write a book alone about Duchess who was stolen and returned to us and who liked to visit the local bus garage, about three blocks away across a dangerously busy street. The bus drivers would give her ice cream. She looked very Taurus, so I’m sure this is why no screen door could contain her from her periodic treat-seeking excursions. The love of animals and regarding them as family members is another indelible ingredient of my happiness—still.


Photos from family albums except for the family home in 2014 by Arlene Clegg Johnson.

Next, Part 2 – The rest of the ingredients, what didn’t work, the impact of moving and the proverbial question, can you go home again?


[1] Another reason nostalgia trips help me get focused is that I have Mars in Cancer. It might work for you, too, if your Mars is in this sign or you have other personal planets in aspect to your Moon natally.

[2] Oak Lawn 100 Years: A Century of Growth, p. 88.

[3] I attribute the compatibility and cohesion I had with my parents in large part to the exact sextile formed by their Suns with mine at the midpoint: Dad's Sun at 29 Leo, mine at 29 Virgo and Mom's at 29 Libra. I really felt like I was the center of their lives.