The Family's Together, Let the Fireworks Begin!

Dear Everybody,

Well, it's that time again! Your Uncle  and I are really looking forward to having all of you over to celebrate the annual "Family Fourth of July Weekend." We know it'll be a super time just like always.

Cause you want to have as much fun as we do, we're positive you won't mind if we send you a couple little rules we wrote down just to make sure everything goes right. (Uncle says I'm getting so organized in my old age!) And don't worry, you don't have to memorize them! We're sticky-taping a copy in every room, so you'll have them handy all weekend long.

Rule Number 1: No substitutions. If you say you're bringing it, bring it. It's nice we've got such versatile cooks in the family, but we can't hardly plan a menu if there's all this back and forth on who's doing what. The way Uncle says it is: "One barbecue-and-marshmallow salad is a treat. Eleven's a bellyache." A word to the wise...

Rule Number 2: First you cook it, then you serve it. True, it means lots of standing up spooning out your particular whatsis, but that's the best we could figure out considering everything. I know it was only an accident when Cousin Chartruse knocked Cousin Ron's Fried Apricot And Onion Dip Delite right off the buffet table last year, but Cousin Rondelle reminded me while we were mopping up that it was the third year in a row Cousin Chartruse had that exact same accident. I don't care who came up with the recipe first -- better safe than sorry.

Rule Number 3: Little pitchers have big ears. It's great to catch up on family news, but sometimes we forget who's listening. I'm not just talking about you, Cousin Sizzlene, so don't take it personal, although maybe those stories about your exciting new career as an "interpretive dancer" and short-order masseuse can wait till we've got Wynken, Blynken and Norm tucked in for the night, OK?

Rule Number 4: No riding the goat. Mr. Billy's not as strong as he used to be, and lots of us aren't quite as light as we used to be. (Hint, hint.) Everybody had a passel of laughs that time when Uncle Fulsom and Miss Louisa Mavis rode him around the backyard all afternoon, but I sure didn't see anybody kicking in afterwards for Mr. Billy's hip replacement. (It was not cheap!) If I have to pick who's skinny enough and who's not, it's only going to embarrass some people.

Rule Number 5: No politics! Everyone knows Uncle Graham thinks Ronald Reagan was the greatest thing since Cheez Whiz, and everyone knows Cousin Bip thinks Uncle Graham is full of beans, about that and everything else. They've been trying to budge one another forever and the only thing they get is more worked up. (We were weeks getting that pickle relish out of the rug last year.) Uncle and I have are tired of it, and we've decided: there isn't a politician anywhere worth a single broken dish. So behave yourselves!

Rule Number 6: A little respect for our elders. Fourth of July weekend wouldn't be the same without Grandpa Wyatt's speech "What America Means To Me." Now personally, I think Grandpa Wyatt's speech gets better every year, not just longer. Even if he sometimes gets distracted, what's the harm? (If he hadn't mentioned it, would you ever have known George Washington used special laser rays from Saturn to keep his wooden teeth shiny at Valley Forge?)

Grandma Ruby Lu promises she'll try to keep him down to two hours. (We'll see.) No matter: there'll be no more bottle throwing or anything else. The man is doing his best! Also, he doesn't see so well anymore -- one of these days, somebody'll hit him smack in the head, and then what?

Special Rule Number 7: We'll light the fuses. The absolute highlight of the " Family Fourth of July Weekend" is the " Family Fireworks Show." Your Uncle is very proud of putting everything together to go off at exactly the right time in exactly the right place.

But the right time is after sundown when everybody's expecting it, not at dinnertime in the middle of grace. And the right place is over the shed, not under the cat. Poor Mr. Whiskers was so shook up last year, it took us a whole week to get him off the roof. We still can't make popcorn without him going crazy on us.

Anyway, that's all the rules we've come up with so far. It isn't a whole lot where family's concerned.

See you real soon!


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