Monday, April 11, 2011

The Importance of the Moon in Astrology

Saturday  April 9, 2011
Well the moon will still be in Gemini all day.  It is a beautiful crescent tonight, quite high in the western sky, and as usual on a new moon I feel hopeful.  Even in the years before I knew anything about astrology, or much less followed the moon, I felt hopeful on those rare evenings when that smiling crescent magically appeared in the west as I walked home from the dinner shift at Balentine's Cafeteria.  I was almost 21, about to come out as a lesbian, completely estranged from my family and very alone in the world.  I suppose that was how I prepared myself for the big step, by leaving my family.

I remember riding my recently purchased motorcycle to visit a nun from the Daughters of Charity who worked for the local diocese; I felt so free with a paid week of vacation from work and my first personal vehicle, I had to go exploring, and found myself sitting in this woman's office for an unannounced visit.  I've always been into spontaneity and this is one of those occasions when it really paid off.  In those days I went to mass several times a week and felt at home in the Catholic Church.  I had received some literature from this nun's order and one of the sisters from out of town had dropped in for a visit with me when I lived at the YWCA.  I guess that is how I wound up sitting in the office of Sister Mary Henry on that beautiful sunny day.  I thought I was just a happy young person who really enjoyed meeting new people.  I didn't realize how seriously I was searching for answers to life's big questions.

I suspect I talked mostly about myself, Sister MH was at least in her late 40's and a very sober woman.  Looking back it seems as though she guided me with the deft moves of a magician, but I suppose I was just so eager to understand what it was that these people who I admired so much knew, that I jumped at every suggestion with literally no idea of what I was getting into.  Her first suggestion was that I come back for another visit, I think she asked if I would like to, and of course I thought that was a wonderful idea.  I had a date for a visit with a cool nun.  I guess it was more of an appointment, but the important thing was it gave me something special to look forward to; a new friendship.

It wasn't a friendship though, it was something more important.  It was an intervention.

On the second visit with Sister Mary Henry I don't think I was in her office for more than 10 minutes before I suddenly and unexpectedly broke down in tears.  I was shocked, but what could I do?  Sister Mary however seemed completely comfortable with my sudden tears.  They did not bother her a bit.  She actually behaved as though there were nothing strange about this obvious lack of self control and exhibited only patient curiosity.  I had stumbled into the office of a professional social worker and had no idea of the turn my life was about to take.

After a 45 minute discussion it came out that I had not spoken with my mother in a year and this was the second time I had broken down in tears since she returned a Mother's Day present that I had sent her.  I thought I was over it and happy in the big world where I could skydive, ride a motorcycle and come home from work to a peaceful apartment with nothing but a good stereo to interrupt my thoughts.  The tears suggested otherwise.  Then Sister Mary Henry made a very brave offer: she would be in Wilmington the following month, if I made the arrangements with my mother, maybe the three of us could get together for a meeting.

Before I tell about the meeting with Mom and Sister Mary Henry, even if you are Catholic, you might be too young to understand what lurks in the minds of many older Catholics.  A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce would be the best description of the really strange things too many older Catholics believe.  My Mom was one of those Irish Catholics whose paternal grandparents escaped the Emerald Isle, but not the long  arm of the Roman Catholic Church.  Her mother's mother was from Poland, and believed cats went to heaven, so I think this stuff did not come from her mom's side of the family.

I rode the Greyhound or the Trailways bus to Wilmington, and we had the meeting in an office of the local church.  I had  given up the motorcycle after a few short months, which may seem kind of sad, but if I had ridden the bike to Wilmington, things would not have turned out as they did; and here I go again with Tolstoy, looking back it appears to have been destined. 

My Mom was her usual outspoken my-daughter-must-be-a-virgin-at-all-costs.  I really think in  those days she honestly thought her MOST important job in life was to make sure her daughters did not have sex before they married or entered the convent.  She said it was the dream of every Catholic family to have a daughter enter the convent or a son the priesthood.  You gotta be Catholic to understand.

Something came up about my friend from religious retreats leaving a condom in the toilet after spending the night with my apartment mate.  Yes I had a habit of telling my mother everything, except what I didn't tell her, which in high school she had found in letters stuffed between the mattress and the box spring.  I thought I was withholding the damning facts, but apparently not.  She damned me right in front of Sister Mary Henry for the condom in the toilet.  Somehow that made me a slut. Believe it or not I was still pretty innocent back then, and I still didn't get the whole deal about sex.  It would take coming out as a lesbian to figure that one out.  But I had been called a slut so many times, and heard my brother's girl friends called sluts, and Mom was so loud and red in the face as she attacked me for living with a roommate that blah blah blah.  And I really didn't care.  I had Sister Mary Henry for a friend, or at least someone who didn't freak out when I cried, and I was ready to move on.  In the last year I had forgotten about all the yelling that went on for such incredible lengths of time.

The nice thing was, for once I did not feel embarrassed about my mother's behavior.  Somehow, Sister Mary Henry made this too seem perfectly normal.  When my mother paused to catch her breath, Sister asked me about Ellen and Jimmy and I told about how they had gone off to the mountains and I would be going up in the summer for their wedding.  She asked if the condom in the toilet bothered me, and I told her that it did, and that I had told them so, but they just said they were sorry and they were still my friends.  The whole exchange made me realize that even though I was scandalized by the thing in the toilet, they were still my friends.  I felt that they loved me, and I loved them.

Sister just nodded thoughtfully.  It was the first time I had weathered one of these maternal tirades since I had decided not to go home at the end of my sophomore year in college.  Then the tornado was all about how I would discover how hard it was to live in a world where no one cared about me, but it would be too late because I had burned my bridges...

Now my mother was a smart woman; she was always deeply involved in local politics, knew the history of the town where she grew up, any town where she lived or visited for more than a day, and took great pleasure in reading and telling stories of politics and history.  She was often up until 2 or 3 in the morning with the television going and a newspaper on her lap.  As the years went by and the media became more saturated with news talk shows, she soaked it up and spoke freely to the talking heads on the tube.  She always remembered what they had said before they got elected or when they held an appointed office.  This woman who declared in all seriousness that her best friend couldn't get a husband because she was too opinionated, could hold her own against any politico.  She was a formidable figure for any daughter to look up to.

I remember as a child proudly tagging along to the town parade and helping to pass out campaign bumper stickers;  Mom often campaigned tirelessly for people she supported to gain elected office.  As the high school bands came marching down the street, I could feel tears welling up in my chest.   The country was in the middle of the war in Vietnam and many nights on the news we saw footage of burned down villages and screaming women running with babies in their arms.   I did not understand why the marching bands made me think of all the people suffering and dying in Asia, I only knew I could not allow her to see this, she would be exasperated and send me off to get myself back under control.

My father often told her she was too perfect and wanted everyone else to be perfect; this would be when she railed at him for his habit of drinking a six pack or more of Schaefer each night.  This was another example of a thought which I calculated should be kept to myself, and guarded for years in an attempt to wish away the critical judgments I held against others:  I thought she simply wanted to have her own way.

Even though I'm not sure of my mother's real age, I'm sure she was not born before 1928.  She gave me 1933 as her birth year, but that didn't jive with the adventures she often recounted of her move to Washington DC at the end of WWII.   When she died, it appeared from documents that she was born the day before Christmas, 1928.  This was the first year of Neptune in Virgo, a very difficult place of rules and regulations for dreamy Neptune to be saddled and bridled with a bit in her mouth for 14 long years. 

My father was at least 4 years older and known by all as the most easy going member of the family.  He never missed a day of work, always had a dumb joke and rarely came home from work without a pack of mint lifesavers in his jacket pocket.  We loved to play with his 'mechanical pencils.'

Mom often yelled in the middle of tirades that she was tired of wearing the pants in the family.  Dad would just quietly sip beer and watch the news.  His patience with her was amazing.  Or maybe it was determination.  Only now can I look back and see that he really loved her, and was probably thinking about her family and what he knew she had been through.  He was probably wishing that this beautiful determination of hers to remake the world as it should be could be penetrated by the admiration he felt for her and that they could relax and enjoy life together.  He was probably afraid this would be one of those times he would have to give up the beer for a week or so to get her off his back.

The last time my father had driven me back to college at the end of the summer break, Mom's brother was visiting from Buffaloe and rode along with us.  Of course there had been a fight before takeoff, and as usual it did not seem to bother Dad.  Uncle Joe cracked a joke about her temper and I worried out loud if she would follow through with the threats she had made as we pulled out of the driveway.  Dad just said, as if he were acknowledging the frustrations of being trapped inside on a rainy day, "Your mother's a difficult person to live with."  I was shocked; that was the most negative remark I had ever heard him make about her.

Now as I post this installment of MP's childhood, I must tell you that it has been two days since I began the essay, and the moon is now in Cancer growing its second quarter.  I hope you'll come back tomorrow to read the rest of the story.

1 comment:

  1. In case anyone is looking for the continuation, it still has not been written. I will link the next installment to this when I post it.