Rock Star Grandma Does It Again!

Courtesy of: Mary Jane Hurley Brant The author (far left), with her family aboard the cruise ship, made some unexpected performance memories on her summer vacation.

Grandchildren sweeten the deal. My three are all teenagers now. They have been magical and mischievous since they were little. We always have fun together. I get them and they get me.

Over the years, on many vacation mornings, the kids and I got up early to collect buckets of shells on LBI’s pretty beaches; then we painted them while eating snacks and drinking lemonade. We regularly fished and crabbed off the piers and docks of several rentals in Harvey Cedars where they witnessed me – for the first and only time – put the live crabs they caught into a pot. I think I lost a few points that day.

This year we decided to do another kind of vacation and took the gang on a large cruise ship to Bermuda. As our middle grandchild read the activity offerings one night during dinner her head shot up. “Grandma, they’re offering family karaoke after dinner. Want to do it?”

“Would I?! Sign me up!”

Everyone rushed dessert and scrambled to another deck, grabbing the last large table available. This same grandchild, excited to start the show, jumped up and said, “Let’s pick out a song to sing.” So side-by-side we stood at the computer as I watched this fun-loving grandchild zip through the karaoke playlist at Mach 3 speed. 

“What artists do you like, Grandma?”

Heaven forbid I would look dated by saying The Moody Blues or The Beach Boys, so I yelled, “Taylor Swift or Selena Gomez!”

“All right, Grandma! Look, they have Selena Gomez, so which song is your favorite?”

“Ah, ah.” Now I had to actually name a Selena Gomez song. Think, Grandma, freaking think. “‘I Love You Like a Love Song!’” I blurted out.

“They have that song, Grandma!” Fingers were flying to type in my name, “MJ,” and the next thing I know “the family” had suddenly become “MJ.” My face obviously registered complete terror because I saw my grandchild looking at me like I’d better not back down or I’d be a chicken or, worse, I’d not be the cool grandma I had a reputation for being. My argument that I thought we were all going to do this together “as a family” or at least the two of us was met with silence and a “not happening” expression on her face. I knew I wouldn’t win this one.

So I puckered out my lips like Taylor Swift, comforted to know they were painted with MAC’s delicious “Russian Red.” I sashayed confidently up to the microphone. I was ready to bust a move.

The emcee announced, “Let’s have a warm welcome for MJ!” Oh man, my hair looked horrible, I was nervous, I didn’t know all the words, and my feet hurt from my cute but not-so-comfortable heels. I flipped my hair, glanced over at my gang and took a breath. My daughter-in-law and grandkids were falling out of their seats, laughing and pounding the table. My husband and son were clapping enthusiastically. OMG, I was wild, I was fab, I was Selena Gomez! I burst into song:

“I, I love you like a love song, baby

I, love you like a love song, baby

I love you like a love song, baby

And I keep hittin’ repeat-peat-peat-peat-peat-peat.”

My body loosened up more, my hand was twirling at my hips, and I was turning into liquid gold. I absolutely knew what it felt like to be “in the groove.” But, all of a sudden, the words on the monitor started flashing, changing colors and font size. What the ... ! I was so distracted with the new visual I was now humming more than singing. Go with the flow, I said to myself. So even though the floor lights were blinding, I was, like, who cares! I was in Madison Square Garden! I was center stage at the Wachovia Center! I was the top draw at the Borgata!

The whole audience began to chime in, singing with me and loudly over me now, so it was a sold-out concert. It was freaking awesome, and everyone was rocking on this rolling ship!  

I finished up to validating applause and sat down, feeling proud of myself and exhilarated. Everyone was smiling and congratulating me, everyone, that is, except my husband. Then, slowly, I saw his head cock to the side. Now what? I thought for a second. Then came that familiar little grin I’ve seen appear in these kinds of situations over the past 51 years of dating and marriage. Then came his laughter. “Mary Jane,” he said, shaking his head, “what am I going to do with you?”

“Well,” I responded, as I dabbed my lips with a fresh coat of that show-stopping lipstick and a little wink, “how about you start singing ‘This Guy’s in Love With You’ like you did at the Surf City Hotel bar in 1967? That could work.”

Mary Jane Hurley Brant is a psychotherapist in Newtown Square, Pa., and a visitor to Long Beach Island.



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