Every summer since I was 5, my family went to Emerald Isle – a mere 90 minutes away from my hometown – any time that we could get away. My dad liked to sit on the deck, enjoy the sea breeze, listen to beach music, and grill or read a book. Mom, my sister Emily, and I would spend our days on the beach because that was really all there was to do. Until I was 8, there wasn’t even a grocery store on the island. And my parents decided from the start not to get cable TV because “We don’t come down to the beach to watch TV.” So we had to find our own entertainment.
When we got older, the summer rules were the same, but we were over 21. We had more entertainment options, and they usually involved wine and karaoke. Em loved karaoke, but not in a way that was pretentious or obnoxious. She didn’t think she was Maria or Dolly; she just liked the fun of a good song, and Mary J. Blige was her favorite.
One long weekend, Em brought her karaoke machine – microphone and all – to the beach. We started with wine and songs early, and by 11:00 that evening, my parents and the neighbors were ready for us to be done. My mom walked out onto the dark, wooden deck and tried to be patient. Emily launched into one of her best and favorite songs: “Family Affair” by Mary J. Let’s get it crunk, we gonna have fun, up on in this danvery… Let’s get it percolatin’, while you’re waiting, so just dance for me, she belted into the mic with a sly grin on her face and a glass of her Merlot in her hand.
Judy was done.
“You need to stop now. It’s late… The neighbors…,” she said firmly, trying not to yell. As Emily ignored her, mom moved to take away the mic. Em dodged her lunging grasp with a laugh. My mom’s next attempt to take the mic away was closer and more serious, so Emily slurred into the mic, “Mommm… I’m sherious… shtop it, Mom! I’m sherious,” and then she returned to Mary J. Come on everybody get on up, case you know we got to get it crunk. Mary J. is in the spot tonight, as I’mma make it feel alright.
All I could do was laugh. Hard.
The mixture of Family Affair and mother-daughter wrestling was too much. I couldn’t help either of them. All I could do was enjoy the entertainment.
Eventually, the karaoke machine was unplugged and our songbird dreams were squashed, but this will always be my favorite karaoke memory and family affair.