It had to be in the country, and there had to be a vast family softball game with 20 outfielders and a runner for Aunt Ida who always batted one-handed with her special broken bat. And a big old house with a porch all the way around it where you roller-skated in summer thunderstorms but now was cluttered with beer kegs and gleaming water-beaded silver tureens of punch and whole tablesful of chicken salad. And then the parade, with somebody long-legged dressed as Uncle Sam highstepping across the lawn followed by a meandering kite-tail of hilarious popsicle-smeared small children.

By the time it was dark enough for the actual fireworks you were content to lie on the grass, permanently staining your white ducks and crooning "Oooooooooooh!" for the rockets, launched from a section of eaves trough. There was always a lot of trouble with the fireworks. About every third one fizzled; they came from Macao or someplace. Nobody ever expected much of the fireworks. It was almost more fun to go around in the dark lighting matches and throwing them at people's feet to make them jump.

Now we live in the city, and we might have a couple of friends over for supper on the back porch, or we might not. Sometimes we even wave a few sparklers, but since the kids left we don't bother with fireworks. The city does the fireworks. If the conversation is lagging we walk down to the Georgetown playing field and watch from there. It's pretty far, but you can see all you need to. The fireworks are elaborate, magnificent, and they all work perfectly.