Placement in Time

I was looking for something in my middle desk drawer this morning and ran across a debit card from an bank account I had closed a few years ago. Normally, that would not be significant. Even in this case, I suspect few people would given it much thought. This particular card, however, had a very special (to me) notation on it. Down in the lower left-hand corner were the words “Customer Since 1972.”

The debit card was from Bank of America in San Francisco. I very clearly remember opening that checking account in Pacifica, CA, just down the coast from San Francisco, on a sunny day thirty-five years ago, just a block and a half from the beach. I stayed in the Bay Area for many years after that, and used account regularly. When I left the overcrowding behind me to return to my roots in 1993, I kept the account open and still used it with some regularity. It just seemed like a shame to close it after more than twenty years.

Then there a came a period of time wherein big banks gobbled up smaller banks at a prodigious rate and on a nationwide scale. Some really huge banks even bought some very sizable competitors. There came a day in 2000 when I was driving towards downtown Lawrence, KS for lunch and saw something that I had not seen for quite some time: a Bank of America sign. After six years of living in Kansas, my bank account had caught up with me.

I continued to use the account for a few more years. Then, in a fit of Shop Local Fever, I finally closed the B of A account in favor of a new local bank opened by a fellow with whom my wife had previously worked. That is still my bank, although the fellow has retired. All of that came back to me as I looked at that (now expired and worthless) Bank of America debit card.

First, I thought of how few relationships of any kind last for over thirty years, despite long periods of separation. Most marriages don’t manage it, let alone most banking relationships. Although I closed it a couple of years ago, I couldn’t help but think about just how long thirty-five years really is. Think of the Presidents we have been through since then, and that the entire Internet revolution has happen in just the most recent years of that period. The passage of time is a remarkable thing.

Better, that card was able to take me back to a sunny day in California when I was just twenty-five and had all of life ahead of me. Just the simple notation of the date was able to transport me back there again this morning. That is one reason to save a few old things. They take you back to previous versions of you, and make you think about the differences between now and then.

Those differences are important to recognize. Holding that card in my hand was enough to remind me of what I had gained and what I had lost over those thirty-five years. It reminded me of the personal growth that has made me who I am today, whatever that may be. And it reminded me that all things change. We all need to be reminded of that once in a while.

Objects are useful as place-markers in time. They can remind us of who and where we were, when the object was new. They can remind is of the difference between that person and the person we are today. And, perhaps most importantly, they can make us think about who and where we wish to be tomorrow.

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