This was never more true than when he found himself with tears welling in his eyes in the parking lot of South Park Optical as he listened to I Feel Like Going Home, by Yo La Tengo. He didn't so much hear the song drifting from his satellite radio as he processed its dreamy atmospherics and felt its sad longing for the warm places where we take cover from the world—home.
Wiping away the tears as the song concluded O’Malley laughed to himself at his, always near to the surface, emotions and thought of another weepy “home” song—John Prine’s Summer’s End from “The Forgiveness Tree.” He heard it while having a cocktail with his wife on the back porch. The meditative summery vibe roused an image for O'Malley of his long dead mother. Like in a grainy home movie she was taking laundry down from a line and mugging for the camera with a big smile. A summer breeze blew through her hair and of course—as the author of ten children—she was pregnant. Yet, standing there, trapped in time, she was still so beautiful. And, as the moving chorus implored the listener to: Come on home . . . O’Malley began to weep and long for his dead mother.
When O’Malley’s wife realized what was happening she was very concerned and asked, “What’s the matter?”
Regaining his composure O’Malley explained to her how the song created a vision of his mother and how he missed her. Though married nearly twenty-five years she was unaware of the depth of his emotions and after kissing him on the cheek she proceeded to gently tease him for crying . . . which O’Malley loved.
Next time it came up she was all atwitter, “This is the song that makes you cry, right? Kids, come watch daddy cry . . . hurry.”
At work sometimes O’Malley would be on the periphery and hear a co-workers radio tuned to the classic rock station. Though this genre was so played out by now there were still a few songs that grabbed his attention. One of those was Take The Long Way Home by Supertramp. For O’Malley this song brought him to the yearbook room of his high school where there was mural on the wall of a kid with an afro pointing to road which was emblazoned with the Supertramp title: Take The Long Way Home. Not only did O’Malley like thinking about that room where he skipped a lot of classes, he also liked to think about all the girls he took the long way home with in high school. Marked by an inability to be vulnerable and full of fake bravado O’Malley wished he could go back in time and change some of the dumb things he said and did walking those girls home. But, he reasoned, saying and doing dumb things came with the territory and was part of the charm of adolescence. Still, if he could get another shot at those beauties he would be kinder to them and express his gratitude for their attention. But, alas, he would have to settle for his gentle regrets because the one thing was sure about the past—it could never change.
While O’Malley had some shaky resolve about the past he looked forward to all the future trips “home.” Whether it be the Long Journey Home with Elvis Costello, the Safe European Home with The Clash or just Home with Karla Bonoff, where those people who look like him and breathe like him will be waiting to challenge, embrace and make fun of him.