The Cowsills In Magazines

Third Coast
Western Michigan University Magazine

This was from a nonfiction story of "A Collection of Rocks: a Portrait" This was written by Michele Root-Bernstein to create a portrait of a father.

. . .

He may have checked himself out in a mirror a handful of times but only briefly. Not to say there was nothing to look at. He was a most handsome man. But as far as his daugaht could tell, his attitude toward clothes had always been one of benign neglect. If the shoe fit, wear it, and wear it,a nd wear it. On rare occasions when he actually came into some new duds, he left them in the closet to season for a year or two. In summer, he liked to hang around in worn-out shorts that seemed to have seen more days than he had. He also liked a loose belt, resulting in the irony of his dressing in grunge style way before the curve. Whenever his pants hund lower than his boxer shorts, which was often, his daughter laughed. "Your slip is showing, Daddy!" Invariably he saluted, " Touche, Michele. Touche! "

Her father prevailed against the slings and arrows of offensive fortune the philosophical ay. "Che Sera, Sera," he would utter sometimes in resignation, sometimes in contempt, and then get on with the many businesses of life zipping to work in his VW bug, holing up in his study, reading, writing, moving bushes, knocking together a bookshelf or two, reading, grading papers, shoveling snow, mowing the lawn, and after his retirement, holing up in his study, reading, moving bushes, knocking together a bookshelf or two and, well, the old dog knew his tricks. He never wondered too long why he was here when he was, demonstrably and materially so, or whether he should be reading history (fact) or fiction ( feeling). His priorities always straight, he had a hard time understanding why anyone in his family should want to do something he found distasteful, like drive an hour or so for a country picnic. "Why the hell would you want to do that? This, however, was mere emotional reaction. Once it was clear he was not involved, he quickly reverted to stoic acceptance. "To each his own," he pronounced, and meant it.

When she was fifteen, the year they lived in Newport, her father rediscovered his youth. Or perhaps, to be more accurate,he let her discover that he had once been a young man, not much more than a teenager really, full of sass. This was delicate business, for it comes to children as a shock that sane and stolid parents of middle ago were ever much interested in flirting with the opposite sex. He had proof, however. He had poems, dating frm the years he spent as a soldier and some thereafter. Many of the poems were still in draft; his handwritten corrections crisscrossed typed pages yellowing with age. Enamored by the sly titillation of lines like, " But darling, lip stick lip!" she begged to type the poems up fresh After some resistance, he let her. He let her petrify old bits of his life in words upon the page.

That same year he rented the guest cottage on an estate owned by a family of pop singers ready to break the big time. The Cowsills invited him to a gig at a bar in town and, suprising every last one of his children, he not only went, he took them along, too. The kids drank soda while the Cowsills gushed in rock tempo, "I love the flower girl." Did he believe in flower girls? Did he guess his daughter's dreams of the cutest Cowsill boy possibly in some glorious eleventh hour tussling her to the ground in the sunlit fields beyond the guest cottage? The truth was, he predicted the Flower Girl song would be a hit. On other matters he kept his counsel. He rolled with the Rousseauism of the sixties, but did not wholly surrender to it. To the romantic notion that "man is born good," he he posed a counter theology. "Everyone is a son of a bitch," he told his daughter. "But some can be saved."

. . .

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