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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Free to Be Our Family's Favourite Dancer (children mentioned)

For the first two years of life, our children didn't watch any television (oh, they're those kind of people...). When they were about two-and-a-half, we started letting them watch five minutes of a movie before bed. But here is where we really make their childhood pathetic and remove any chance for them to fit in with pop culture conversations in the future: I don't want them watching anything made recently that has quick camera changes. Nothing slick. Preferably without cute characters that will beckon to them from toy shelves whenever we're out shopping. Which means that we turn to home movies.

The first movie they watched on continual play was a video of pictures from their first year. My daughter would narrated it every night by repeating the same phrases for each picture: "there's my ng tube! There's my ng tube again! I liked to pull out my ng tube and Mommy said 'no, no'. That picture is at Grandma's house. That picture is on her refrigerator. What am I looking at? I love you!"

And as much as I loved watching those first year pictures again, after several months of watching the same images on continual loop, we decided to introduce a second video. Welcome the Lovenberg family from New Jersey.

Right after we started treatments, we went on a trip to Disney World (which, it turns out, is not a great place to go if you're infertile). We brought a video camera around and made a movie for our niece. Part of the movie was the opening ceremony where they invite a random family to open the park. The day we were at the Magic Kingdom, the Lovenberg family was throwing the confetti. Dad, Mom, daughter and son all squinting into the bright morning light while we filmed them hanging out with Mickey and friends. We started watching the Lovenbergs on continual play, with my daughter shouting out the lines of Miss Hildegarde Olivia Harding, citizen of Main Street USA and the hostess for the opening ceremony (apparently, the name goes with the character--there are several Hildegarde Olivia Hardings floating about and a different woman plays her on different days).

And we started musing about the Lovenbergs. What did the parents do? Dad was maybe a fireman or a police officer. Mum stayed home and clipped recipes from magazines. Son was probably in college by now and daughter was eyeing the better room in the house. We googled them, thinking that we would send them a copy of the video, but there were too many Lovenbergs in New Jersey. One rents port-a-potties. Another works in a first aid squad. One wrote reviews on a cheap gas site. How would we know which was our beloved Lovenberg family?

Mommy soon tired of watching the Lovenberg's throw pixie dust, though I had to replace the film with something more interesting, more colourful, and more exciting than a family of four squinting. In came Free to Be You and Me.

The quintessential favourite of our generation. I know you startled a bit when you read the title and maybe you immediately jumped to your favourite song and starting singing it in your head. For me, it would be "Agatha Frye" or "Glad To Have a Friend Like You." Maybe for you it's "It's Alright to Cry" or the non-musical "Ladies First." The kids were immediately hooked and they've moved their obsession from song to song at least providing some variety.

Their favourite at the moment is "Brothers and Sisters." But it is not for its infectious beat or radical dance moves (please, if you haven't seen it in a while, click the link at the bottom of the post to check out the intensely high kicks on top of the jungle gym at the end). It's all for the blond boy who pulls up the rear in the scene when they are walking single file through the playground.

One night, Josh mentioned that the boy appears only in that one scene and he challenged me to find him elsewhere. We started it over and watched it two more times and found him several more times, striking a pose (he's in the second row of people in the beginning sequence), going down a slide, bobbing his head at the end of a tunnel. We have collectively fallen in love with him and named him John-John. It is currently my daughter's job to call out "there he is!" every time he comes on the screen. We only find him more endearing when he messes up one of those early moves by throwing his hands up in the air when everyone else is crouching down.

One day, they will tire of Free to Be. Either they will tire or more realistically, I will tire and then hide the DVD. I often wonder what will come next. Will it be Schoolhouse Rocks? Another try with Really Rosie? Old Electric Company clips? But even more interesting to daydream about is who we will collectively fall in love with next. The girl who pulls out her adjectives? Pierre who is eaten by a lion? The letter "E" who can turn a can into a cane? Only time will tell.

For a walk down memory lane or to see our favourite dancer, click here.


megan said...

oh, i so hope you choose school house rock. i love it! just stay away from "figure eight" remember that one? it's SO melancholy! :)

MLO said...

I'm with Megan, Schoolhouse Rock rocks! At my first "professional" job we would get out of our doldrums by singing various songs from Schoolhouse Rock.

You might check out The Muppet Show. It really is truly timeless.



serenity said...

O.M.G. That video... wow. Too much for me... brain seems to be oozing out my ears...

Schoolhouse Rock... well... rocks. To this day, I remember that Conjunction Junction's function was to hook up words and phrases and clauses. *sigh*

Muppet Show, YES. Timeless - and funny for you to watch too.

Somewhat Ordinary said...

I totally remember watching that as a kid! Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

Karaoke Diva said...

My son LOVES Schoolhouse Rock, but at his age (3), I don't know how much he really gets. More useful is The Electric Company. My hubby and I both feel that EC ws instrumental in our son being able to read at such an early age.

P.S. Thank you so much for your kind words on my blog.

Frank N. Beans said...

Have you heard the CD, "Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks"? A number of popular bands from the late 90s cover many of the old "Schoolhouse" songs. My favorites are "3 is a Magic Number" by Blind Melon and "The Tale of Mr. Morton," by Skee-Lo. I bet your kids would love this, but maybe not right before bed.

MLO said...

In my thinking about entertainment, it struck me (because DH rented a music documentary) that They Might Be Giants have several age appropriate YouTube videos.

You know the ones:
-- Instanbul (Not Constantinople)
-- Particle Man
-- Alphabet of Nations

Yes, they have a lot that are not for kids, but some might actually work.



Reproductive Jeans said...

I looooved that show....those songs get stuck in my head! Oh and yes, the Show...great memories=)
"Todays Special" on Nickelodeon was great too...

Jess said...


I don't know about that video. It sort of made my head hurt.

Does it make me a baby if I'm pretty sure that was filmed well before I was born?

The muppets ARE timeless, though...mlo is right. Move to the muppets.

(But it's SO CUTE that you all watch the "classics" of kids tv.)

ms. c said...

I'm not sure if anyone can ever tire of Free to Be You and Me. Really. It IS timeless. My dad has it as part of his downloaded cd collection, and when I'm over at my parents' house songs form it come on between jazz and The Beatles. It always makes us giggle.
Also: I just sent the DVD to a girlfriend's 3 year old- she's totally hooked!
Great story, Mel. Thanks. (And I don't think that you are one of THOSE parents. I try not to judge, I'm not in your position, so it's impossible for me to say how I will deal with TV with my kid(s).)