"When I miss my family, I look at their birth charts: snapshots of the sky under which they were born. The lacunas in their stories I desperately wish to fill, I try to recover in astrology"
Astrologers I greatly admire have been warning people of the astrological storm brewing, now known as 2020. I read the warnings and told a couple of close friends, who range from skeptics to daily checkers of their Co-star app. 2019 had already been a personally challenging year. My two grandmas passed away while I was busy at school. I couldn’t shake how the much-needed distance from what I cherish and subsequent loss fit within the larger portrait of my life.
When I miss my family, I look at their birth charts: snapshots of the sky under which they were born. The lacunas in their stories I desperately wish to fill, I try to recover in astrology. My maternal grandma was an awe-inspiring Aries, but the rest is harder to pinpoint. As an extremely superstitious Chinese lady who believed in the power of astrology, she hid her info well. My other grandma, in true Libra fashion, has almost all of it spelled out, except her birth time. It’s frightening how similar our charts are.
As generous as my grandmas were to me, they targeted hostility and resentment towards my parents. I don’t have real memories of the two sides of my family spending time together, even though we all lived in the same city. At one point I confessed to my therapist that I avoid new relationships, because I’m scared of turning into her: my paternal grandma. She was difficult, sometimes sweet and loving, other times cruel and jealous. My mom even told me I was lucky to be born a couple days after my grandma’s birthday, or she would have thrown a fit every year over that too.
I never got to tell my Libra grandma the sadness and anger I felt towards her, for the fear of the world she instilled in me. She was diagnosed with some form of dementia, maybe Alzheimer’s; hazy details still surround her, even up to her death. After her diagnosis, she changed into a completely different woman; all the acidity tainting her words vanished. The right medicine helped her sleep through the night, and she woke up from the nightmare of reality. She needed some balancing out to find her peace. When she no longer saw my mom as a threat, she became her friend, telling her she was quite beautiful.
I wasn’t ready for her death last year. Before her diagnosis, underneath her eye-catching beauty and keen sense-of-fashion, she showed me her wounds. Her ego was shattered, from losing her already mistreated mother to war-time violence at a young age, being put through the worst of the mental health care system in British Hong Kong as a teenager, etc. She also had Leo placements in her chart, giving her an ego-driven star potential and bravado. She was a performer, singing and acting in her church plays. Leaning into the jealousy of Leo though, she wanted to be the biggest star and threw tantrums if she wasn’t. You would never have guessed this side of her at first, because her upfront Libra energy could put most people at ease. I shaped so much of my life in her shadows as a fellow Libra. Her home was always filled with opera and classical music. My Libra grandma passed down her opal birthstone jewelry to me, taught me that I am a Rabbit in the Chinese Zodiac with her collection of rabbit figurines, and gave me my Chinese name (after an extensive search for the perfect meaning). We share a love for art and symbols. I wish I could go back and ask to hear her story one last time.
My Aries grandma’s story is not so different. She too grew up during World War II and later worked as a seamstress in Hong Kong, where she erased her fingerprints under sandpaper. She came to the U.S. with my mom and uncle and worked odd jobs in San Francisco. My mom always described her as “a woman ahead of her time,” fighting tooth-and-nail for family and defying traditional Chinese womanhood. She fed me with her well-guarded, passed-down family cooking and laughed with glee when I parroted Cantonese back to her. I ate the 19-year-old cured pig’s feet she prepared for my mom’s pregnancy a couple years back, asking my mom if my illiterate grandma could dictate the recipe to her. Despite their similarities, my grandmas never saw eye-to-eye; their hatred was bitter till the end. When the first one passed away, the second’s response was “I can’t believe she beat me in getting to the after-life.”
People are as complicated and puzzling as our birth charts, but when we take the time to sort them out, we can glimpse the galaxy through which the other lives, and bring back some of that understanding as consolation. The typical, modern Libra archetype is focused on love, balance, and beauty, typically symbolized as the scales. But, Libras are also known for their acute awareness of everyone else to the point that they lose themselves in the other. That is why it is the perfect opposite to fiery, Martian Aries: full of life and looking to make themselves truly known in this world. My Aries grandma saw through all the layers of my Libra one all the way to her Leo core. Coming from the same place of figuring out the self in relation to the other, Aries and Libras are the Cardinal change makers of the world. Yet, their similarities and differences fated my family to separation.
At the end of my Aries grandma’s life, she told my mom all her deceased relatives were visiting her, a sign that she too was passing on. My Libra grandma cried silently on her deathbed, when we all came to be by her side. I hope they are both reunited with the ones they missed. I hope they know I miss them, too.
Another family member passed away from Covid-19 this year, and I have not stopped grieving over the unquantifiable losses we are all facing. Still, to grieve is to truly understand how precious the past is and to carry on with a heavier heart. Chinese folktales and astrology remind me how cyclical life is, trusting when spring comes again, the trees will grow new leaves, flowers, and fruits. We cannot change the times we are born into. We cannot change which stars die or the ones our family are born under, but we can still celebrate those we were lucky enough to meet, right on time.
Meet the Family
Keziah Wong, a tea enthusiast, is finishing up their final year of college with amazing friends while missing distant loved ones and their cat. If you can, please support Tay Tay’s journey!