The tie that bonds, the bond that ties
I found them deep in the bottom of the safe deposit box, put there so long ago they'd been virtually forgotten. Three US Savings Bonds, gifts to me on the occasion of my birth.
The denominations didn't seem huge: 100, 50, and 25 dollars. But, readjusted for the rate of inflation, the gifts were very generous indeed at the time they were given. You'll have to guess the date of issue yourself; as you can see, a little judicious editing has been performed by a friend less technically challenged than I on the above reproduction of one of the bonds.
I'm not sure who the donors were, but I know they had to be family friends or relatives. The stamp on the bond in the photo says "The First National Back of Millburn," so that's a pretty good clue; my mother had first cousins who lived there.
When I took the bonds out of the box to study them, they seemed old--older than they ought to, far far older than I. Something like the Confederate money I remember my grandmother showing me in my youth, or the far more interesting mourning jewelry her mother had worn--chains made from the hair of the deceased, on which lockets containing the loved ones' photos were hung.
These US Savings Bonds were evidence that, as a newborn, I was surrounded by a group of people who didn't even know me yet but who wished me well. And not only did they wish me well, but they were putting their hard-earned money where their mouths were, and planned that some day these bonds would pay me back with interest.
And now that day had come, belatedly. No doubt the givers thought the bonds would have been redeemed quite some time ago, perhaps even to help pay for a college education, when that kind of money could actually get you something more than a textbook or two. But somehow, instead, the bonds had been laid aside long ago and forgotten.
The bonds made me think of the banks of my youth, so different from today's user-friendly ones. Those 50s banks were meant to be intimidating; they were manned (and "manned" was not just a figure of speech; the employees were all males) only until two o'clock in the afternoon or so, the classic "banker's hours." They featured a lot of icy marble, and the tellers hid behind grates, with only a bit of their faces showing. The effect was enhanced by the fact that I was too small to really see up that high; I just presented my savings account book and they gave it the mysterious and official stamp.
Now, of course, the bank I visit to redeem the bonds is a wide-open space, full of light and artwork. The tellers are all women--although actually, to me, they look like young girls--with nary a grate in sight.
I present my bonds, and the teller studies them, her eyes widening, her mouth forming a little "O" and giving out a slight puff of air. She actually calls the others over to look, and soon the lot gather around, murmuring "We've never seen one of these before; look how OLD!!" and gaze up at me in wonder.
I'm a bit hurt. "Hold on about old, that's me you're talking about. They were given to me the day I was born," I say, and they smile and shake their heads. Others are called in, and a consultation ensues. What to do? How to look this up?
A higher-up comes out and determines that, with interest, the bonds are worth $921.92, which respresents a nice windfall, and an unexpected one as well. I can feel those long-ago givers smiling on me, joyful at the birth of that baby girl so long ago. What were their hopes and dreams for her, their fears and secret sorrows? I don't even really know who they were; just that they wished me well--and that, so many years later, I receive their gifts once again.