Last Friday I got the urge to begin spring cleaning. While cleaning the stove, I realized that I had overlooked what had become a permanent fixture. I had forgotten about the wishbones I saved from turkeys and chickens that the kids could one day make wishes on. I don’t know how long they were there waiting to be used. They were kind of gross and I was just going to throw them out, but I figured it was time to pass on the tradition of breaking the wishbone to my children.
So, being the instructive father that I am, I gave the kids a brief lesson on the biomechanics of domesticated fowl and the integral role of the “wishbone”. Then I told them about how when I was a kid, Uncle Marcus and I used to make wishes on the wishbones from Thanksgiving and Christmas. Nonna (Italian for Grandmother), used to save the wishbones from Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys and let them dry out on the stove. When they were nice and crunchy we could only pinch them with our pinky and our thumb then make our wishes and pull them apart. “Uncle Marcus, never got the big piece,” I told them. “I always got the bigger piece,” I said.
When Nonna was young she lived on the family farm in Upper Michigan. She and her sisters would have to pluck all the feathers from the chickens they raised to get them ready for cooking. “It was a nasty stuff,” Nonna told me. “We used to have a tree stump specially marked as the chopping block. Uncle Lance used really love to chop their heads off. He used to get a kick out of watching them run around and flap their wings without their heads!”
In Nonna’s family, they would prepare the chicken usually for roasting or frying, and after the wishbone was found, she explained: “We would let the wishbone dry on the woodstove. It was a tradition to make our wishes and pull on them until they broke. Whoever got the biggest piece is whose wish would come true.”
I set the wishbones on the counter and instructed the boys how to first make a wish, then pull until the wishbone broke. They both closed their eyes and squinted as they wished hard. “Don’t tell anyone what you wish for,” I said. “if you do, it won’t come true”.
“Are you both ready”? I asked. “Do you know what you’re going to wish for?”
Silently they nodded with their eyes closed. I gave the command, “Pull!”
Joseph’s tiny fingers kept slipping as they were no match for his brother’s stronger grip. Finally on the third try it snapped! We held the two pieces together, but Joseph’s piece was clearly bigger. “So what does that mean?” David said.
I said, “It means that Joseph’s wish will come true.”
David looked sad. I told him, “Don’t be sad, we have LOTS more!” The boys each won two wishes, and had a great time trying so hard to win the bigger piece.
Soon Mommy came in with Isabella and asked what we were doing. I told her with a big grin, flapping my big ol’ eyebrows, “We’re wishing on wishbones!” Jorie’s face lit up and said, “You are! Cool!”
Then I told Jorie that Isabella should try, and with a little help from Mommy, Isabella and I broke a wishbone. This time, I won. Although I can’t tell my secret wish, my wish was for her.
With the last wishbone, Jorie and I silently made our wishes. We each squinted with our eyes closed, (I know because I peeked) then when we agreed we were ready, we pulled. The wishbone exploded into tiny fragments of bone, but we each held a small piece. After careful analysis, I was determined to hold the longer piece I won again, but this time, my wish was for my wife.
It’s a good thing I always win! It’s a good feeling knowing that your wishes for someone else will come true!