Afew words about tents. Tents should be a pretty color inside. Green and white stripes don't create a very becoming light -- pink is wonderful. Or white, if it doesn't show its years of service too obviously. The biggest enemy of tents is wind. Wind is even worse than rain, which is bad enough.

When the children gave a 25th anniversary dance for Bill and me close to Christmas, we set up a tent off the living room -- around the flagstone terrace -- and decorated it as a sitting room. We put up the family Christmas tree with all its ornaments collected over the years, hung antique quilts across the walls of the tent, and it all looked very bright and warm. That night a fierce wind came up and when I went down the morning of the dance, there was the Christmas tree lying on its side with shards of Christmas tree balls all over the rug. The table lamps had blown over, the quilts had fallen to the ground, and the walls of the tent were swinging like unleashed spinnakers. The tent man did his best, but in the end the Lord had to rescue us. About six o'clock that evening the wind dropped.

Always be sure that your tent is securely tied down in the beginning. Tent men are eternal optimists.

When we gave the party for Joe Alsop, we planned to use a tent. It had rained steadily most of that spring. I finally concluded that I couldn't ask the Lord to bail me out again and I had best assume it would rain the night of our dance, too. So when the tent man assured me that the tent was watertight and rain would be no problem, I asked him how much it would cost to keep one of his men on duty all night in case it did rain.

"Twenty-five dollars," he said. "Done," I said, and amazingly cheap at that.

It did indeed rain, and the tent assistant was busy all night long poking broom handles up into pockets of water that collected ominously overhead in different parts of the tent roof all during the party.

Always keep a tent man around.It's the best insurance there is.