Traversing the streets of my hometown of Wakefield, MA, I was waiting for some warm, nostalgic feeling to lift my spirits from a downer of a week. It didn’t come. In spite of the familiar Lake Quanapowitt and the etched memory of streets leading to the house I grew up in, the context of it all is foreign because I’ve changed. The alienation I felt conjured up the cliché of Tom Wolfe’s, “You Can’t Go Home Again” later in the evening when my brother Kevin and I stopped into a past local haunt for a drink. His old pal Carl suggested we’d likely meet up with ghosts from our nights in zip code 01880. Granted, the place was packed; an unfortunate situation because the walls were adorned with Wakefield sports pictures from over the years I would have liked to have seen. One beer later, and after not seeing anyone we vaguely recognized, I said to Kevin, “it’s full of townies from the past twenty years; not thirty.”
I had printed directions to the Melrose Elks club and was executing them flawlessly (um, take a right, then another…) when I saw my uncle “Mucca” (Donald) and Aunt Irene entering the Knights of Columbus hall for his 70th birthday bash. I see. (Note to self: read an invitation prior to the whole Google map thing…) The first familiar face I saw was that of my cousin Denise. She’s a beautiful woman just like her mother, but her bright face leaves no doubt she’s a Daley. Denise has two “K” named daughters, who I remember, probably incorrectly as Katy and Kaylee. Cousin Donnie couldn’t make the party, but it’s probably just as well. The thought of Kevin chasing Donnie around the party with Donnie screaming for his life is a 40 year old memory from 743 Saratoga Street that nobody would want repeated. Not at Muccapalooza.
Jimmy and his wife Nanette were there. Jim sang some Sinatra and pulled it off like a decent Vegas impersonator. Nanette spent most of the night cradling and dancing with her young nephew while her sister served a very cool cake of her own creation. From my seat in the bleachers, Cousin Jimmy is a very kind and caring guy. He organized and hosted the party, and saw to it that every attendee enjoyed it. Oh, and the food was catered by Spinelli’s in Eastie and included Piantedosi rolls… a nice touch. It’s not the first time I’ve seen Jimmy in action looking after others. Some fifteen years ago during a visit to Mucca and Irene’s, Jimmy absolutely doted on my little Megan. Jim and I made plans to catch a Sox game with the old boys while my dad is up from Florida in the next few weeks…
The scene that took place as I parked my car in a tardy haste was touching, or so I heard. Mucca dampened (his eyes, not his pants) at the sight of family and friends. I wonder what went through his mind in those moments, for the ranks have thinned considerably in the past decade. “Spooky,” “Trav” and my Uncle Mitchell are all gone. “Red” couldn’t make it. His Adeline doesn’t get out much anymore. Carol Dumont and Pauline said hi and asked how my Mom was. Not quite as good as them I thought as I watched them tear up the dance floor… I’m sure my Dad wanted to be there, but he’s still tying up some loose ends in Florida after losing his “Peg.”
I also wonder what the hell Mucca was thinking when he let the DJ dress him up like the “Village People” cop for an all-guy dance disaster to “YMCA.” I know Mucca liked and respected the DJ. Earlier he told me, “He’s from Eastie. His father was a fighter.” Still, I though it was unusual (and hilarious) cruelty inflicted on the birthday boy and a staid member of the senior set…
There were some classic stills, many in the Polaroid monochrome of prior generations. Young Mucca, his wedding day with Irene, his father Mike, and of course, Lil the Thrill… The matriarch. Of our grandmother, Jim said, “She’s the reason we’re all the way we are.”
Any frequenter of this digital destination knows I over think things now and then. In this case, I thought about how the kids of my generation in this Daley family who were raised by parents who stayed together are now themselves still together with their spouses in long-term first marriages. Those of us who grew up with divorce, um, aren’t. I’m not sure there’s a correlation and I’m certainly not blaming anyone for my own life’s choices, but it is an interesting detail. Also given thought is my own lack of involvement with my Dad’s side of the family. That’s going to change. Maybe I can’t go home, but I can enjoy more time with my family.