Capricorn, the sign that rules business and worldly achievement, is sometimes uncharitably described as cold and pragmatic. Not that all Capricorn people are that way, of course; far from it. At its best, Capricorn is the kindly, sensible patriarch that guides us to achievement and to being our best selves. But each sign has its shadow side, and bottom-line pragmatism is certainly the archetypal province of Capricorn. Think of Scrooge, and of Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Or the CEO who engineered an acquisition of the company where you work, and promptly discontinued the pension plan, slashed benefits, and fired ten percent of the work force. If a business practice doesn’t improve his bottom line, such a person can’t comprehend how it could possibly contribute to his success.
But the Full Moon in the domestic, nurturing sign of Cancer reminds us that there are all kinds of ways to be successful, and not all of them can be measured with a calculator. Consider my favorite eatery, a small, family-owned restaurant that has been a mainstay of our neighborhood for nearly four decades.
When we moved into our first home together, my husband and I soon joined the legions of enchilada addicts who regularly flocked to the tiny, dingy restaurant down the street. Aside from the extraordinary food, which would keep us coming back no matter what, this is the only restaurant where I’ve ever really felt at home. As long-time regulars, my husband and I are accorded the respect and affection of that status. We walk in the door and are greeted warmly and led to our favorite table; within minutes, our favorite drinks are on the table and our order has been placed for us. When we go there, we feel like family; and based on the number of familiar patrons we recognize each time we visit, we’re part of a fairly large clan.
It is, in short, an institution. In an industry that sees many more failures than successes, it’s no small feat to keep a restaurant open, let alone thriving, into the next generation. I don’t pretend to know how they do it; I only know how I feel when I go there: I feel like a person, not a figure on someone’s balance sheet.
Apparently, so do the staff, who tend to stay for a good long time. Part of what keeps them there, I imagine, are person-friendly business practices. For instance, the restaurant is closed every Sunday. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve found ourselves geared up for a tasty lunch, gotten all the way to their front door, and remembered too late that it was Sunday – el restaurante estaba cerrado. Their doors are also shut each year for the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s. I’m sure there were times, especially early on, when the owner’s bottom line suffered as a result of these decisions. But to him, Sunday and Christmastime are for spending time with family, not for working.
Family, community, and tradition are the soul-nourishing province of Cancer, the essential counterpart to Capricorn’s desire for worldly achievement. Our favorite eatery has succeeded for largely Cancerian reasons: great food, a nurturing atmosphere, great location, and a younger generation that has taken an interest in the family business. We’ve watched the owner’s children grow up, and it was a bit of a shock when, a couple of years ago, they took over the business. We watched warily as they undertook a major remodel, expanding the restaurant and opening an outdoor seating area. We wondered if our favorite waitresses would disappear, or whether the marvelous uncle who cooks our favorite enchiladas would retire along with his brother. Perhaps – horrors! – the kids would even decide to keep the place open on Sundays! Would our beloved haunt still feel like home?
Well, things are a little different there now. The remodeled interior is beautiful, but unbelievably noisy, thanks to stylish concrete floors and high ceilings. Many of the older waitresses have moved on. But the new patio seating area is a dream, our favorite place in the world to sit and have a meal. One of the New Guard has become our all-time favorite waitress, and we still get the same warm attention when we walk through the door. The food is exactly the same – delicious – and you still can’t get it on Sunday, or during the week after Christmas.
A few days ago, drafting my resolutions for the new year, I found myself thinking about this restaurant and about the other businesses I enjoy patronizing. They all have a couple of things in common. First, they shared a warm, welcoming spirit that makes me feel appreciated. And second, every one of them is wildly successful by standards that would impress even the flintiest Capricorn. They include a hairdresser who is booked a month in advance; a mechanic who is so busy he had to rent a new building last year, an astrologer so brilliant and empathetic that he has a two-year waiting list for readings. They – and the Full Moon in Cancer – remind us that whatever we hope to achieve in the New Year, we will find our best and fullest success by treating the people around us with tenderness and nurturing. That’s the real bottom line – and if we protect that, then the balance sheet will take care of itself.
© April Elliott Kent
Painting by Claudia Fernety. See more of Claudia’s work at her website.