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“Time has no divisions to mark its passage…it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.” – Thomas Mann

I spent the waning moments of 2016 with my best friend, Wee Jack. He is a Chihuahua mix with the heart of a lion. As we watched the year ebb away in exotic places, and of course Times Square, it was only 9 p.m. here. 

Jack is not a drinking buddy, so we munched crackers and cheese trying to find a channel with dogs. There was the faint murmuration of festivities in the distance. Fireworks left over from the Fourth of July, no doubt. Our neighborhood has morphed into a retirement community without the clubhouse. We’re a sedentary bunch well into our 70s and 80s. The lone child down the block seems like an extraterrestrial. How did we come to this? Good genes perhaps and maybe clean living? Some of us walk our dogs regularly.

When we were young, marriages intact, not widows or widowers, we knew how to “ring in the new.” My husband on his B flat trumpet, me showing Stevie Nicks a few licks on my tambourine. Shotgun blasts courtesy of Mike T. and Jack O., but what goes up has to come down – we should have known better. Everyone else regressed to their favorite childhood instrument: pie tin and wooden spoon. 

This cacophony would last about 30 minutes until the clock had struck, the first baby of the New Year had been born in a local hospital, and we were thoroughly bored and winded. Whichever came first. The last two years I have fully intended to open my front door and blast a few on my Brazilian vuvuzela, but I cannot muster the courage. I am not a good soloist. 
    
I reflect on 1999. Nut cases were predicting an apocalyptic scenario for the century’s end: computers would become our masters – they got that right. Babies would be doled out to the wrong mothers in hospital nurseries. Nobody’s keys would open doors, safety deposit boxes, or start cars. People were stashing away water against the possibility that only a faint gurgle would greet them when they turned on their faucets. Yes, yes, even The Rapture was a possibility. 

It is so quiet outside. In other parts of the world there is turmoil, people in extremis. In this country there are too many without what now beckon me in my home: a warm bed in a safe place. My daughter calls. She is with friends and is coming to see me soon. Enough there for quiet contemplation and celebration. I put Wee Jack in his bed with the promise of a walk tomorrow. Happy New Year, sweet friend. Tomorrow we walk into 2017.

Marilyn Wallner

Marilyn Wallner is an unapologetic memoirist who uses a pre-World War II manual typewriter.

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