Vartabedian: What’s in Your Wishbone This Thanksgiving?

It’s Thanksgiving and guests are seated around the dinner table with their knives and forks in hand. Out comes the golden bird and appetites begin to soar.

Who’s that lucky person ending up with the wishbone? And who else will get to break it?

It’s a tradition that has been as old as the Pilgrims, not that they enjoyed turkey back in 1620 when they landed in America. Rumor has it they feasted on ham.

Nonetheless, it’s a day when family and friends gather together, bound by love and prayer, and enjoy a hearty meal together. When the wishbone appears, all eyes are focused on it. Both ends are squeezed tight; two people make a wish, then snap.

Whoever is left with the longer piece has a wish come true. Even though it may not, there’s nothing like remaining hopeful. Hope conquers despair.

My 10-year-old one year divulged her wish after winning the contest. I was curious to hear what she had craved.

“A new bike, lots of money, my own castle, and a ride in the royal coach like Cinderella,” she quipped.

“Not everything hinges upon wealth,” I told my daughter. “Sometimes, we must lay our personal pleasures aside for the good of mankind.”

I didn’t expect the youngster to wish for an end to hostility and hunger. But it certainly would have made a better impression.

“If you don’t get what you want, will you be disappointed?” I interjected.

“Naw,” she shot back. “It’s only a wish and they don’t usually come true.”

Last year, my mother wound up with the wishbone as people at the table applauded. Who should she pick as her mate but I, her only surviving son? She won the match and divulged her wish.

She didn’t wish a reprieve from the nursing home, nor the hope of reaching 100 in two short years. She didn’t wish her childhood again, her home, or a chance to see Armenia for the first time since she escaped the genocide back during the World War I years.

Instead, she wanted nothing else but a chance to see her other son again, nearly 10 years after his demise.

“Why couldn’t God have taken me instead?” she had said at the time.

I wish I had a dollar for every wish I have made, whether in thought, word, or deed. I remember canvassing the fountains of Rome and throwing a quarter into every one, along with some secret desire, whether it was for continued health or the welfare of my family.

In Armenia, which I visited twice, a candle would be lit in every church or cathedral I happened to visit. Along with it came a prayer for peace. You could interpret this as a wish. I prefer to call it transcendental meditation.

At our dinner table each Thanksgiving, couples have scrambled over that elusive wishbone with as much verve as a lineman chasing the quarterback. One year, a newly engaged couple caught the honors with a good deal of trepidation.

They each wound up thinking—and wishing—alike. They looked forward to a happy life together in their own home, raising a wonderful family, and enjoying a long tenure in the professional world.

For the college student in our family, he simply wanted a job—not just any job mind you, but one that coincided with his major in college.

The family bachelor gripped one end of the wishbone and cracked it in his favor. He did not wish for a wife like others did for him. Instead, all he asked for was an end to all the incessant badgering he faced each Thanksgiving from meddling relatives.

“My wish,” he proclaimed, “is to be left alone. When it comes time to marry, you’ll all be the first to know. Until then, please let me enjoy my independence.”

His wish became his command and the busy bodies were quickly silenced.

The wishbone found my Dad one year—the year he was suffering with cancer—and he prayed not for himself, but for others at the table, wishing them a life free of pain and torment. The disease had ravaged his body and he stayed resilient until the bitter end.

Okay, the wishbone didn’t do the turkey any good. It’s as if they were put on this earth for one reason—to fill our stomachs and steer diners toward a wishing game.

What will be in your wishbone this year? Observe miracles? Make new friends? Rediscover old ones? Forget trouble? Explore the unknown? Keep a promise? Be wise? Try to understand? Live God’s message?

Whatever it may be, have a happy Thanksgiving and may your wishes come true.


Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.

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