Suddenly life was good, even glamorous. We were poor but didn’t know it, or maybe we did know, but we didn’t care, because my mother had stopped disappearing into her bedroom. Our apartment building was surrounded by empty lots, which were all that separated us from the ocean. Within a couple of decades, those stretches of undeveloped land – prime coastline real estate –would be built upon, with upscale apartment complexes and million-dollar houses with ocean views. But in 1967, those barren lots were our magnificent private playground. I had a tomboy streak and recruited neighborhood boys onto an ad hoc softball team. Dieter and my mother installed a tetherball pole, which acted as a magnet for kids in the neighborhood. For the first time in years, we were enjoying what felt like a normal, quasi-suburban existence, with us at the center of everything–the popular kids with the endless playground.