Decades ago, my husband and I found ourselves in the celebrated position of supplying the first grandchild for both sides of our families. My parents greeted the news of the impending birth with protestations that despite being in their fifties, they were not old enough to be grandparents. My husband’s side, who had made no secret that we should be mature enough to understand the serious business of carrying on the family name, exhaled a breath that had been under pressure for eight long years.
Our families’ differing takes on our role transformations were reflected in their gifts. My parents sent us a stroller. My husband’s parents presented us with a Savings Bond, a piece of paper fraught with meaning exceeding its numeric value.
As our family grew, more bonds were presented for safekeeping. We stepped through the predictable life stages, and are now at the age our own parents were when their first grandchild was born–though it hardly seems possible. So when I recently learned that paper Savings Bonds would become relics of the past, I admit to surprise. I felt melancholy for our parents’ generation, those who are still vital, who could recount the importance of Savings Bonds throughout their lives. For many of these elders, technological progress has made the familiar more elusive and ethereal. As life moves forward, some are left behind.
It was not our grown kids that had the relationship with their Savings Bonds, I realize. These were a link between our parents and us, a wish for the future, a reference to life’s continuum, handed down from a peer group that saw their creation in 1935, when my father was just fifteen. Recalling that our grandparents had ice blocks cut from ponds and delivered by horse-drawn wagons, and even used ear horns, illustrates generational change, but also honors memories’ endurance and strength.
These virtual bonds remain, even when the beloved tangible is no longer in reach.