August 28th was my mother’s birthday. And in all honesty, this might be the first time I’m writing a post about Mom that I know what I want to say, but I haven’t been able to pin down how I want to say it. Hell will freeze over before I use clichés and platitudes about her.
So I will tell the story of my mom using a just-for-fun hobby of ours – astrology.
My mom is a Virgo in the truest sense of the word. Her feet are firmly planted on the ground, and there is always something to do at the office or around the house. Her hands aren’t idle, and she thrives in keeping her space and home orderly. Mom was an at-home mom when I was little, and I remember how even with the madness of a toddler and later preschooler, things were always cleaned and dinner was always made. Beds were made, floors were vacuumed, and once her chores were done, we always made time for each other, whether it be reading, playing with Barbies or going on afternoon bikes rides around our neighborhood.
That Virgo reliability was a hell of an anchor during the sad and challenging times of life. When my folks divorced and I had to go to visitation with my dad and his new family, I spent plenty of Friday nights crying from missing her. Saturdays were anxious, since I just wanted so badly for them to go quickly so it could be Sunday afternoon and I could run through the door again, far away from the chaos that was in one house back to peace and stability of my home.
I knew the time apart killed her too, but she told me years later once the visitation was done that she had to learn to have faith I would be home soon. I’ll always maintain Mom being a force of normalcy through that five year period is the only reason I’m not a basket case.
Fast forwarding a bit through the teen years and my 20s, our relationship as mother and daughter continued to evolve and deepen. I feel like now is a good time to point out I’m a Sagittarius. Generally speaking, Virgos and Sagittarians don’t get along. One is calm, orderly and considers all the outcomes; the other by nature is loud, blunt and likes to do things by impulse. I would love to say age has calmed me down, but that’s an outright lie. It’s a recurring joke between us where I’ll come up with a questionable idea or stick my foot so far down my mouth I’ve got toes poking out the other end, and Mom will ask out loud, “What am I going to do about you?”
I’ll say the same thing I always say, much to her (exaggerated) chagrin: “Not a damn thing!”
This past weekend was no different, but the year leading up to it has been. Of all the people who have been affected by my grandpa’s passing, Mom has had the most to reckon with, alongside Grandma.
My mother and my grandfather were close in life, disposition-wise the same person. They had a quiet language between them, where one could exchange a look with another and they would immediately understand. They were direct, could read people and situations and could understand each other’s fears and insecurities. She always valued his opinions and wanted to make her father proud, and he had always wanted to be able to provide for his daughter and granddaughter.
I’ve written at length about Grandpa always being the family backbone, so his sudden passing and how he went was frankly traumatizing. I don’t want to derail a birthday post with unnecessary, morbid details about my late grandfather – or cross into exploitative territory – but out of all of us, my mother was the one who had to step up in a way she wasn’t ready to, being my grandmother’s caregiver while also navigating grief and life 2.0 without her greatest ally.
Previously I’ve referred to my mom as a brick wall – someone who knew how to be immoveable when life called for it, even if privately she was going through a lot. She was my brick wall as a kid during the acrimonious divorce and visitation, then again through single parenthood until she married my stepfather. She was my model for how to carry on, how to be classy when the people around you sure as hell weren’t (how to play a long game, really) and how to come out on top when it doesn’t feel like that’s going to be the outcome.
Of all that I’ve seen her have to overcome – divorce, raising a child on her own, losing a job and having to search for several years before that breakthrough, and a medical issue in high school that was thankfully resolved – saying good-bye to Grandpa was the one that hit her the hardest. During the initial stages of grief, she wasn’t that brick wall, which is understandable. She had to reset the foundation, gather the bricks and rebuild, and building something sturdy doesn’t happen overnight.
But my friends, she is a Virgo. Specifically, a Virgo born at the end of August, and I don’t believe her specific birthday is just coincidence.
Virgo is a mutable sign, one of four signs marked by adapting and the changes of seasons (Sagittarius, Pisces and Gemini are the other three, if you were wondering.) Think about the end of August if you live in the American Midwest, like we do. The sunflowers that bloomed in early August are still standing, although the season is over. So are the last roses of summer, which will start to fall away as the trees start to turn colors. It’s harvest time, where farmers gather all that they have grown and city-dwellers make their way out to farms for apples, pumpkins and corn.
Virgo season is transformative, right when the days start to get a little shorter and the mornings chillier. Fall is coming, and with the beauty of fall is also the unspoken coming of colder days, longer nights and winter. Winter isn’t known for being an easy season to get through, but yet get through it we all do, in time for trees to bloom in spring and the warmth of summer and the growing season to return.
So much of my mother, her life and specifically her fortitude is that of a Virgo. Every sad, uncertain or even heartbreaking season she has had to go through she has come out of and learned to rebuild. It’s hard work, but it’s work that needs to be done and she always does it. There’s vibrant colors that fade to dark, and then from the dark there’s rebirth. The ground and nature around always come alive again, and August Virgos are the proof that the changing of the seasons never stops and sunny days always return.
So to my brick wall, end-of-summer Virgo mother – Happy Birthday. You can go through the worst and yet continue to keep going, and along the way, you’ve always inspired the one who looks up to you … even though I still can’t stop putting my foot in my mouth and embarrassing you with my talent for getting food drunk at Clara’s Pizza King. Hey, I’m a Sagittarius – there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.
I love you,