Wishbones for Winnie

By Penelope B. Judd

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    “It sure will be neat to have a holiday,” Stephanie mumbled, swallowing a bite of cupcake. “Thanksgiving’s almost my favorite holiday—after Christmas, of course, and may be Halloween. What could be better than no school and having all that good stuff to eat?”

    Brushing a stray crumb of peanut butter sandwich from her cheek and crunching on a carrot stick, Winona declared, “This’ll be our first Thanksgiving here in Loganport.”

    “Well, I’m sure glad you moved here, Winnie. Lunchtime is more fun with somebody like you to talk to. You should see our turkey,” she sighed blissfully, thinking of food again. “Mom says it weighs almost twenty pounds! How big is your family’s turkey?”

    “We’re not getting one this year,” Winnie replied.

    “Oh, sorry,” Stephanie said softly. “C’mon. There’s the bell. Just two and a half more hours and we’ll be free from school for four days!”

    The crisp November air seemed to push Winnie along the sidewalk as she headed home after school. “Hi, Mom,” Winnie called as she closed the door to their apartment.

    “I’m in the kitchen, dear,” Mother replied. “How was school? Glad to have vacation for a few days?”

    “Uh-huh,” Winnie answered, coming into the kitchen. “Mom, what are we having for Thanksgiving dinner? Stephanie’s family has a twenty-pound turkey.”

    “Well, dear, you know we can’t afford to buy a turkey this year. Moving to Loganport took a lot of money. But it’ll be worth it if your father’s work here holds out. It’s a shame the old hotel in Greensburg closed, but we should be glad that Dad likes his new job and that we have a nice place to live.”

    “Nice place? This apartment is so plain, Mom. It’s awful! I’d be ashamed to bring anybody here.”

    “Your friend Stephanie doesn’t seem to mind.”

    “Stephanie understands, I guess. But the other girls at school wouldn’t.”

    “Sure they would. Now, how about stirring the soup and setting the table while I put the corn bread into the oven. Dad will be home soon.”

    Fifteen minutes later Dad came through the door. “Whew! What a busy day,” he said, hugging his wife. “That kitchen was really hopping today so that everything for the big Thanksgiving buffet tomorrow will be just right. I stuffed so many turkeys I’m going to dream about those birds all night.”

    “I wish we were having turkey,” said Winnie.

    “We are,” said Mother. “I have a can of turkey noodle soup that I’m going to make into the best turkey corn chowder you ever tasted.”

    On Thanksgiving Day Winnie had to admit that the chowder tasted very good. Mom had even splurged and made a pumpkin pie.

    Thanksgiving wasn’t bad after all, Winnie thought as she helped her mother with the dishes.

    Dad came up behind them and gave them both a squeeze. “Happy Thanksgiving to my two lovely ladies,” he said with a smile. “You know, Mother, our Winona is really turning into quite a good-looking young lady.”

    “She’s going to be a teenager before we know it!” Mother declared. She turned and smiled at her daughter. “In less than two weeks you’ll be thirteen years old, Winnie. I can’t believe it.”

    “I’d say that calls for a party,” said Dad. “How would you like that, Winnie? You could invite some friends over.”

    “A party,” Winnie gasped. “Oh, Dad, that would be super! But—I mean, can we afford it?”

    “You and Mother work things out. You’re both pretty good budget balancers.”

    The next afternoon Winnie and Stephanie sat at the kitchen table making invitations from colored paper. “Stephanie,” Winnie said after a long silence, “I’m worried. I want to ask the other girls to the party and at the same time I don’t want to. I wish we had a fancier home.”

    “Hey, don’t be silly! Anybody dumb enough to worry about what your house looks like doesn’t deserve to be your friend. Besides, everybody likes parties.”

    That evening Winnie heard her dad calling as soon as he entered the apartment.

    “Where’s Winnie? I have a surprise for her.”

    Winnie sprang up and ran to meet him.

    “I don’t do this for just any lady friend,” Dad teased, “only good-looking women turning thirteen years old.” He held out a lump of aluminum foil.

    Winnie carefully opened the foil. Inside lay ten wishbones.

    “From the turkeys at the hotel kitchen,” Dad explained. “You can clean them up and use them for your party.”

    “Neat, Dad!” Winnie exclaimed. She soaked the bones and pulled off any traces of meat. Then she put them on a sunny windowsill to dry.

    The following week seemed like a blur to Winnie. “They sure have been piling on the homework since we got back,” she remarked to Stephanie at lunch.

    “I’ll say! I’m stopping at the library on the way home. Want to come?”

    Winnie shook her head. “I have to finish my book report before supper so I can help clean the house for the party. I still can’t believe everybody’s really coming.”

    That night, tired but happy, Winnie snuggled under her patchwork quilt. It seemed like only minutes until she heard her mother’s voice. “Time to get up, teenager.”

    Winnie scrambled out of bed and got dressed. Today was the big day. Almost before she knew it, she heard giggles on the stairs below. The girls were arriving for the party. Does everything look all right? she wondered. She whirled around and checked out the room: a plate of sandwiches, a bowl of chips, and a lovely cake with pink frosting. Mom’s old tablecloth looked elegant with paper flowers pinned to it. A knock sent her skipping to the door.

    The girls bustled inside the apartment and began taking off their coats. “Well, what’s this?” asked Janice Jones, just about the classiest girl in the whole school. She sauntered over to the table. There, suspended on tiny threads above the birthday cake, hung ten wishbones, each tied with a slim pink bow.

    “Wishbones,” said Winnie, thinking it was the dumbest thing she’d ever said. Her heart sank. She should have known Janice would think …

    “That is absolutely the neatest thing I ever saw,” Janice announced. She made a quick count. “There’s one for each of us.”

    “So nobody gets stuck with the short end,” explained Winnie.

    “Everyone gets a wish come true today,” Stephanie chimed in.

    Winnie knew Stephanie was right. Wishing for a turkey, wishing for a fancy house, wishing for friends—a girl could waste her whole life just wishing. A person thirteen years old ought to get out and do something and be happy about who she is. Reaching up with her scissors, she snipped off a wishbone and handed it to Janice. “Make a wish,” she said with a smile.

    Illustrated by Pat Hoggan