Banks are where grown ups go to do important things, like taking out home loans, cashing big pay checks, or making investments like a Certificate of Deposit. Today, I was doing the rough equivalent of smashing my piggy bank to keep from going broke while waiting for our Vermont home to sell.
As I walked into the well-appointed lobby at northeast Connecticut’s Liberty Bank, with its sleek leather furniture and fancy tile floor, I felt like a kid again. There were lollypops at the counter and hot chocolate packets alongside the coffee maker. It’s as if the friendly staff in their navy blue blazers knew that someone would need to sweeten his quarter-life crisis while sitting in the waiting area.
We just had to last one more month until our house sold.
Just a few days earlier, I didn’t think we were going to make it until the sale went through. It had sat on the market a few months too long before finding a buyer, and our reserves dried up as my work hit three major setbacks in a row and we waited for my wife’s salary at her new position to kick in. It seemed like every potential source of income dried up just when our bills were doubled and our new salaries non-existent.
I had been praying (Read: Despairing) about our finances, when it hit me: we still had several emergency funds sources to draw from. One of them, the easiest and fastest to access, were my savings bonds. They were just what we needed to make ends meet.
I sat with my briefcase on my lap which safely preserved the neat appearance of an envelope holding a small stack of matured savings bonds from 1987, gifts for my First Holy Communion back when I was Catholic. They were still crisp and sharp on their edges, kept in a plastic sleeve all of these years. Apparently Catholics often give them as gifts to mark the occasion. I started the day of my Holy Communion without any clue that I’d be receiving the bonds, but after a few $100 savings bonds piled up, I started to think anyone who gave me a $50 bond was being cheap.
When I was called back for my meeting, I jumped to my feet. Would they reject the bonds? Would they say I’d made a mistake and they were only half of what I’d thought? In the past four months, worrying had become my default.
I stepped into the back office to meet with a well-appointed woman in a business suit, accustomed to dealing with mortgages in the half million dollar range, this was Connecticut after all, rather than cashing a grown man’s Holy Communion bonds to keep his bank account from hitting zero. After a few minutes of tapping on her keyboard she printed out our new balance statement and handed it over with a smile.
“Have a nice day,” she said, as if I was one of those responsible adults who take out loans or earn interest on “things.” My relief was clouded by the shame I felt for being such a screw up for failing to provide for my family when we needed it the most.
In the following months our house sale flew by without any problems, I landed a steady job selling books online for a quirky used bookstore in town that more closely resembled a yard sale, and my hit or miss article writing income was replaced by steady writing work for a manufacturer. In the words of Monty Python, “I got better…” However, I’m still not entirely at ease among the perceived “adults” at my local bank these days. Remember, I’m still a writer!
Cowering in the couch at Liberty Bank, wondering if my bonds were valuable enough became my rock bottom moment. But, when you’re going to bottom out, the lobby at a fancy Connecticut bank isn’t too bad of an option. I would have served myself some hot chocolate if I’d known that things would turn around so quickly.