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Essay: Wishbone

I can still see it on the kitchen windowsill of my childhood, the wishbone from our most recent chicken dinner.

It needed to dry out, my mother explained, before it was ready to grant wishes.

So I would test it almost daily, disappointed to find it still flexible.

Finally, when the wishbone was brittle enough to break, my mother would offer me one side and she’d pull from the other. If I got the larger half, I would get my wish. And if I got the smaller half, my mother would get hers. But here’s the thing. When I lost, my mother always said that her wish was for mine to come true. This should have been a win-win for me. But I was uneasy about this outcome. I wanted my mom to have her own wish—and I wanted to know what it might be. It didn’t seem fair that shehad to give up her secret hopes so that I could always have mine. Strangely enough, I don’t remember whether I ever had a wish come true. The excitement was waiting for the wishbone to dry out, the anticipation of grabbing one end and pulling hard. Now I understand the desire of a mother to give her wishes to her children. I also understand the need for mothers to have wishes, too.