It's that time of the night here, just before 10PM on Independence Day. The local fireworks displays are going off over Lake Washington, and Mr21 kindly offered to walk Miss Ten closer to the water to see them while I stay at home tending to my recovering-from-surgery dog. I don't mind missing the fireworks, really -- after about 50 years of them I can say that I can take 'em or leave 'em. Don't get me wrong -- I think they are lovely and fun and all but the big sparkly booms in the sky aren't my favorite fireworks. The ones that make me smile inside are the ones I remember with such fondness from my childhood: the very low-tech sparkler sticks and the silly carbon pellet "snakes."

Oh, man, it was SO exciting to get your hands on a couple red-white-and-blue boxes of sparklers! We couldn't even wait until dark most years to try them out. I can remember running with them all around the lawn, sparks trailing behind me, pretending I was a fairy or a rocket-blasting astronaut. When it got dark, we'd try to write our names in the air with them before they burnt out. Having an 8-letter first name was hard then. We'd stick them in Barbie hands and G.I. Joe Jeeps or plunge them into anthills. One of us would always forget and touch the hot metal of the stick and get burned, but it wasn't too bad.

I might have liked those dumb snakes even better. Why? They are about as unspectacular as it gets, I suppose -- they don't make a big noise, they don't go up in the air, and they definitely don't sparkle. But I thought that they were SO COOL the way you could never tell exactly how long each one would get before it would burn out, how it would twist and turn. It seemed kinda creepy and black-magical. I could light snakes all day and be happy, until my mom or dad would come and yell at me for leaving those little round black burn marks on the concrete front step.

Add in a good Wisconsin barbeque with brats, corn-on-the-cob, potato chips, homemade baked beans, homemade German potato salad, pickles, and watermelon, and a small local parade with handsome firemen throwing handfuls of candy and gum at we kids who would scramble to pick up every piece, and it was as good of a day as you could ever have.