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Wissot: Memories of New Year’s Eves past

Dec. 31, 1949: I’m 4 years old living in a two-bedroom apartment with my 1-year-old sister and parents in the Bronx. I’m too young to remember what happened that evening. But I’m positive that I drank no alcohol.

Dec. 31, 1959: I’m 14 now living in a two-bedroom garden apartment in Teaneck, New Jersey. I’m sleeping on a convertible couch in the dining room so my sister could have one of the bedrooms. I remember the evening very clearly.

It was spent in the third-floor apartment of Janie Manginello whose husband was a small-time mobster. Janie created a safe haven where my friends and I could smoke freely and consume large amounts of alcohol. Think of it as our private “garden of good and evil” minus the good. I know I got drunk that night because I stumbled down the stairs and fell into the arms of my parents. They were not pleased.

Dec. 31, 1969: I bought my first house that year in Bergenfield, a community close to Teaneck where I graduated from high school and Hackensack where I’m teaching high school English. My friends from high school are celebrating with me and my wife, Cheryl, in our finished basement. She is pregnant with our first child who will be born the following April. I’m so proud to be a homeowner at 24. My father wasn’t able to purchase his first place until he was 58. Life has been good to me.

Dec. 31, 1979: This is easily the saddest New Year’s Eve of my life. I moved to Colorado two years before after being hired as an assistant professor of education for the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. I’m about to be divorced in two weeks from Cheryl, who I met 18 years before in high school and to whom I have been married for 13 years. We have two daughters: Lauren, who is about to turn 10, and Jordana, who just turned 8.

In order to drown my sorrows, I have a brief sexual fling with a woman named Glenda from town. We are in a rented cabin in Allenspark. It’s a colossal mistake. There is nothing worse than discovering on a nostalgic night that an emotional gulf exists between you and the person lying naked next to you. We stopped speaking to each other before midnight. The silence continued the next morning on the drive down to Greeley.

Dec. 31, 1989: Ten years later and I am alone again. This time from my second wife, Gail.

We were divorced a year before after being together for eight years, married for four of them. For the record, I must tell you that neither one of my ex-wives caused our divorce. They were both wonderful women. They just didn’t marry a wonderful man. I’m a stand-up comic now doing a New Year’s Eve gig at Mogulfield’s in Copper Mountain. I finish my act, go to my room at the hotel and fall asleep. I’m not looking forward to the new decade.

Dec. 31, 1999: My life has made a 360-degree turn for the better. All of that was to due with meeting my third (and I can absolutely guarantee my final) wife, Alyn. We met at the end of 1990, married at the end of 1995, and are now in Hamilton, New Zealand, getting up at dawn to celebrate the new millennium. We are there to run the first marathon in the world on that historic day. I’m happy to be happy again.

Dec. 31, 2009: My memory is fuzzy regarding the specifics of the evening. What I do know is that it was spent here in the Vail Valley. Alyn and I purchased a condo in Vail Village in 2000. Every New Year’s Eve since has been spent at someone’s house in the valley, most of them with our best friends, Jeannie and Denny Geraghty, at their place in Edwards. They are the most generous and gracious of hosts, not only on New Year’s Eve here but on Thanksgiving in Denver for any of their friends not spending the day with family.

Dec. 31, 2019: Just finished welcoming in my eighth decade on New Year’s Eve at Jeannie and Denny’s. Alyn and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary the day before. Everyone there but Alyn is in their 70s or 80s. I know that some, including myself, have probably celebrated their last hello to a new decade. But rather than sadness a sense of gratitude is what I feel. Not everybody gets to welcome in a new decade eight times. I’m among the fortunate who have.

I wish you a 2020 filled with good and plenty.


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