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Are You Paying Attention?

“Twenty-somethings don’t want to collect material things. That’s just how it is.”
Wmpearl, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
“Twenty-somethings don’t want to collect material things. That’s just how it is.”

Hi, I’m Marcy McKay from Amarillo, author of the award-winning novel, Pennies from Burger Heaven. I’m excited to be a Radio Reader for High Plains Public Radio’s Book Club.

I’d read Annie Proulx’s novel, That Old Ace in the Hole years ago, so it was nice to revisit the story, especially since it’s set in a fictional town in the Texas Panhandle. It explores a way of life that no longer exists. A shiftless college graduate thinks he’s found easy money by talking some local ranchers (who are cash poor, and their kids don’t want the family farm). He fails to mention his employer wants the land for a hog farm.

What I thought about is how more and more, younger generations don’t automatically want what’s been in the family for generations. They don’t want to move back to run the family business, or to inherit Great Great Grandma’s full china set. It’s not just them. Many consignment shops won’t take the antiques either.

Why? Because they simply don’t sell.

Twenty-somethings don’t want to collect material things. They want to collect experiences. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, that’s just how it is.

My family had a house fire in Amarillo in August 2017. Yes, I know I’ve talked about the fire before, but it’s a good story, with a lesson, so here’s your daily dose of goodness.

I was home alone when the fire happened. No, the house did not burn to the ground, and they were able to save most of our belongings. You think your home is the roof over your head, but more so, it’s your grandmother’s antique captain’s desk, the Christmas stockings you needlepointed your children, your everyday dishes.

Your home is your stuff. We lived in our house in Wolflin for over 17 years, then one day – never again. It was the only home our two then-teenagers had ever known. In the ten months that we were displaced, all our belongings were shipped off to be de-smoked, then sat in storage, packed away in 643 boxes. I’m not joking – it truly was 643 boxes.

You think you need a full-stocked kitchen with all the bells and whistles, but you can get by just fine with one skillet, one saucepan and a spatula.

Oddly, it was sort of freeing. Less stuff took up less energy, physically and energetically. I needed every bit of that extra emotional space to sift through ashes of my former life.

House fire come in many shapes and sizes: death, divorce, debt, an unexpected diagnosis. The blessings of hard times are that they show you what your priorities truly are, so you can let go of the rest.

That experience was a great pregame warmup to March 2020. I understood from the get-go the pandemic would be life changing for everyone. We’re still in the middle of reckoning what the new normal will look like, and to hopefully create a better world for everyone. Not just a select few.

The good news is today my husband and I live on 1.6 acres on the rim of Palo Duro Canyon. My marriage is stronger and I’m just a happier person all around. I dealt with issues I didn’t realize were issues. I would not wish a fire on anyone but I’m so grateful for what it taught me.

That Old Ace in the Hole examines a way of life that no longer exists. Society is doing something similar now, even if you do not realize that on a conscious level. What lessons have the past 2.5 years given you?

If you do not know, are you paying attention?

This is Marcy McKay, local author from Amarillo and Radio Reader from High Plains Public Radio. For more information, go to HPPR.org.

Fall Read 2022: Rural Life Revisited 2022 Fall ReadHPPR Radio Readers Book Club
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