As I write this, I’m looking out our window at mostly white. Snow covers the ivy around our garden, the Weber grill, our bathtub flowerbed with its slumbering calendula seeds and iris rhizomes, Checkers’ bike, Crazy Eights’ tricycle, even the jogging stroller. I hardly want to do anything with the kids outside the house, knowing that the playgrounds a few blocks in any direction and the sidewalks leading to them are covered with this hard, ungiving offwhite February snowslushice. Even walking the kids to school is a task of monumental proportions involving multiple layers, grumbles (from them and me), and warnings not to open our mouths too wide because our teeth will hurt.
It’s easy, in this mid-winter lull, to forget that there might be things to love hidden in the sludgy city snowscape. Also, because of the inordinate amount of time we by necessity spend indoors, we can always use some unstructured indoor play. Dancing is, in my humble opinion, the best unstructured indoor play, and what better way to sail our ships into the frozen horizon than to the beat of some winter-themed jams? Here are a handful of my favorites:
“Me & the Snowman” – Logan Whitehurst & the Junior Science Club
Hands down the Number One Winter Jam in our household. There may be no children’s song I like better, actually. The premise, a BFF relationship with said snowman, segues beautifully into a list of mythic relationships (“Courtney & Kurt, Ernie & Bert, Lincoln & John Wilkes Booth/Jekyll & Hyde, Bonnie & Clyde, Superman & Lex Luth…”) in a bouncy pop song structure that ends with a public service announcement encouraging kids to find out more at their local library. This comes from perhaps the greatest children’s album in recorded history, Whitehurst’s Goodbye, My 4-Track. Sadly, we’ll never have another album out of him; Whitehurst died in 2006 of a brain tumor at age 29. (The video here is by an production student at the School of Visual Arts in 2011, not Whitehurst.)
“Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow – Frank Zappa
This, one of a mere handful of Frank Zappa songs that are remotely child-friendly, provides a cautionary tale about something distinctly unlovable hidden in the snow. (I’m using the single version here, which splices the song with bits of “Nanook Rubs It.”)
“Doughnut for a Snowman” – Guided by Voices
Checkers got a recorder for Christmas; I’m pretty sure she could already play the intro to this song. A pleasant, relatively restrained GBV tune involving a Krispy Kreme, the Good Humour man, a playground, and a hungry snowovore.
“Oh Groundhog” – Lisa Loeb & Elizabeth Mitchell
Now that Ponxutawney Phil let us down again last week, we can only sing hopefully along with Lisa and Elizabeth, “Oh when will the winter end/Look out the winter, it’s snowing again!”
“Make It Last” – The Bowmans
This last one, by my old friends Sarah and Claire Bowman, is at least as much for the parents (read: me) as for the children: “Don’t you see what I mean? I need a retreat. I’ll vacation in my imagination. There’s nothing out here for me in the middle of February. There is only cold and grey, and useless short days that are telling us to sleep, to hibernate. So I’ll dream. I’ll dream, until the first blooming poppy.”