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The Cost of a Stamp

Marcy McKay’s stamp would have cost 13₵
Stamp owned by Swollib, and modified by me Jak., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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Marcy McKay’s stamp would have cost 13₵

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

I’m typically more of a fiction gal myself, but I enjoyed How the Post Office Created America by Winifred Gallagher.

Why?

Because I have not been very happy with the United States since about 2015, so it was a powerful reminder of the greatness of our country when we put our minds to something. Ben Franklin and countless others built something from literally nothing. Think about those old movies where you see the Pony Express with his bag full of mail riding across the Wild West. How any sort of communication makes it from one place to other, especially across the country, over even more so overseas, is still miraculous to me.

I still remember the summer I turned 10 in 1976 and wrote a letter to a friend from summer camp. Okay, it wasn’t just a friend. It was a boy I had a crush on who lived in Albuquerque, and I didn’t want my family to tease me about it. Stamps cost 13 cents back then. I did not have a stamp, so I very carefully taped a dime and three pennies to the envelope, then sneaked the letter to our mailbox about the time the postman came to our house each weekday.

The nice mailman rang our doorbell, and gave the letter back to my mom, who did not shame me or make fun of me at all. Instead, she gave me a stamp and let me keep the change. Butterflies fluttered through my stomach as I read the boy’s words in his letter back to me.

Nine years later, I had a back-and-forth correspondence in college with another boy from Amarillo named Mark McKay, who was also just a “friend.” His letters were funny, sweet and he always managed to sneak in one line that gave me those same type of butterflies. We’ve been married since 1990.

As a writer, I lovvvvvvve me some letters. Not bills, not the 4,652 catalogues that flood my mailbox each Christmas season, but a card or letter from someone I care about that says:

Happy Birthday

Happy Whatever Holiday It Is

Get Well Soon

           I’m Sorry That Happened

           You Can Do It

Or my favorite of all:

I Was Just Thinking About You

Remember how email exploded in the early 2000’s? We all thought it was the coolest thing ever since you could send messages to anyone, anywhere, with the press of a button.

That type of immediacy still has its merit, but for many – email has long since lost its WOW factor. I feel confident saying most anyone who worked during the pandemic knows that dread of waking up to 4,652 emails in your inbox.

It’s never ending.

Letters feel special because they’re so much more intimate. There’s something both delicious and divine about saying, “Hey, I took 5 - 20 minutes to put pen to paper just for you. This is just a conversation between us. I did not tape pennies to the envelope. I used an actual, real stamp.

At the time of this BookByte, stamps are now 60 cents apiece, but you know what the cost is to let someone know they’re on your mind?

Priceless.

So, that’s my BookByte about How the Post Office Created America. This is Marcy McKay, local author from Amarillo and Radio Reader from High Plains Public Radio. For more information, go to HPPR.org.

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