It’s 1968. I was a wee lad that year, a precocious, rascally, blond-haired goofball filled with unbridled energy and joie de vie, the youngest child of nine and spoiled beyond reason, and my favorite song was The Rain, The Park & Other Things by The Cowsills, mainly because I adored little Susan Cowsill, who on every TV performance seemed so perfectly flighty, silly, and adorable to my five-year-old self, moreover, like me, she was the baby of a huge family, thus we were kindred souls, which of course meant I was madly in love with her and this amazing psychedelic bubblegum monster hit. I imagined that she and I would blissfully skip down the hill on 22nd Street next my house, hand in hand, singing this perfect song. And then we’d smooch a little. I am sure most boys my age in 1968 thought the same thing about her. And yet I knew I was her one and only boy. She was my Flower Girl. Silly me.
I was five in 1968, and while vaguely aware of the tumultuous events of that trying time, I was mostly oblivious like any other kid. I remember the morning after Bobby Kennedy was shot, as my Mom’s friend Barb Schneider and Mom, grief-stricken and shocked, sat talking about it all morning while watching the news reports on TV. I have vague recollections of the Vietnam War, mostly that I wanted to be a soldier when I grew up, and that’s exactly what I did when I was 19. I remember a little about Mom and Dad and my older brothers and sisters watching on TV the events of the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago and all the crazy street protests by the hippies getting smashed by the Chicago PD. I don’t have many memories of all that insanity and turmoil in 1968, really, just vague flashes mostly.
What I do remember vividly were the great memories with my family and friends, and of course the amazing music on the radio. Or when a favorite music act appeared on Ed Sullivan or some other variety show on TV. Those memories are still in technicolor and stereo in my mind. Life was grand in the late 60s on my personal level. My family was happy, healthy, and thriving. My neighborhood was safe and filled with great people. My best friends were Jon Ramsey, Buzz Phillips, and Terrence Thrap, and we were midget Tom Sawyers that summer, nutty, bold, and adventurous. One couldn’t find a happier kid than I was at that age.
I’m an old man now, with most of my life behind me, and yet this song still brings me more joy than just about any other in the history of pop music. It takes me back to that vivacious, spirited, nutty kid I was in 1968, who once—just once!—wanted to smooch with little Susan Cowsill, my eternal beloved, my Flower Girl.