I like banks. Over in Madison, there's a wonderful restaurant operating in an old bank building. I like going there because they'll let you eat in their vault - a tiny room behind a big iron door where the walls are papered with old banknotes. My wife's not too fond of that claustrophobic room, but sitting in the vault gives me a sense of history as I eat my mashed potatoes and gravy. I imagine that I'm dining among a richer class of Georgia's ancient ghosts. Eating in an old bank vault will make you think like that.
I know why I like banks. When I was 15, a beautiful one opened up near my house. I remember the first time I walked into the big lobby and smelled the aroma of the wood-paneled interior. I thought, "This is what a bank is supposed to smell like." I was smitten and opened my first savings account. I was loyal to "my bank" until I went to college and found one much closer to campus. My old bank changed names a few times and aged. Its fresh paint lost its luster, and the wood lost its intensity. Eventually, the bank died. The building has tried on new owners and new uses, but all I can see is "my bank." If someone ever turns it into a restaurant, I'll never go even if they serve filet mignon in little trays made from old safe deposit boxes. It's still too personal in there for me to digest food.
This past weekend, I learned that one of my current banks had been handed over to a new owner. The FDIC said everything would be OK, but I made a special trip the next morning to see for myself. As soon as I walked in, I felt a huge sense of loss. I stood there wishing I could be back in that old Madison bank vault with my mashed potatoes instead of standing there in the same lobby where my youngest son and I open his first little bank account. I can deal with those old pretend Madison ghosts. They exist only in my mind. But I can't yet deal with all these new bank-dwelling ghosts. They're still too real, like the sweet memory of depositing a fistful of birthday money, a dollar at a time, while enjoying the aroma of fresh cedar paneling, at my bank.
David McCoy, a notorious storyteller and proud Yellow Jacket, lives in Conyers, can be reached at email@example.com.