I remember an elderly couple, the Masters, and their apartment across the street from my family's house in suburban Chicago. As a four or five year old girl growing up in the 1960's, I identified with an innocent era of community assurance. Neighbors were friends and respected figures of authority. Mr. and Mrs. Masters were a likewise praiseworthy couple in the glow of their eighties. The couple frequently strolled hand-in-hand through the neighborhood dressed as if going to church, Mr. Masters attired in a charcoal suit and Mrs. Masters in a floral print knee-length dress. They wore their platinum hair short and well-groomed.
I remember they knew everyone's name in the neighborhood; my brother Paul, my sister Jean and I, two buck-toothed Gustafsons, two crew-cut Hepburns, three olive-skinned Guevaras, four toe-headed Smiths, five blue-eyed Streeters, eight freckled McHughs, and twelve red-haired Donnellys. The neighborhood children ranged in age from preschool to preadolescent, played Kick the Can, Freeze Tag, and Capture the Flag on balmy summer days as sunscreened parents refereed from porch lawn chairs.
At no particular time in the afternoon, the Masters drew open their curtains to signify that child visitors were welcome. A stampede of giddy children herded across the street and bound up two flights of stairs. The tallest child pushed the doorbell, and musical chimes echoed throughout the apartment.
I remember the desk drawer sweets. Mr. Masters sat at the helm of a rich red mahogany desk, rubbed to a lusterous and flawless radiance, and pulled gently on the brass handles to display an array of sugary delights. The top desk drawer contained rootbeer barrels, chewy Mary Janes, solid Jaw Breakers, and other assorted hard candies; another drawer brimmed with narrow sheets of spotted candy dots, sugar laden Pixie Stix, and spongy pink bubble gum;...