“I want a 25 lb turkey, do you have one?” John McKee almost laughed in the customer’s face. There were only two things that stopped him. One, it was against store policy. The second was for a much more important reason. It was his Grandmother, Hilda Klein. You didn’t laugh at Hilda Klein.
Instead he said something almost as dangerous. “Grandma, you can’t afford a 25 lb turkey!” She was five foot one, cotton white hair, blue eyes, gray glasses. Her weight, while unknown, was pronounced. She was dressed in her best clothing. To anyone else, she would have failed to intimidate, but this was family.
She raised herself up to her total height, looked him straight in the eye, and quietly said. “John Francis McKee, do not proceed to tell me what I can or cannot afford. I will ask you once more, do you have a 25 lb turkey?” He nodded quickly, and within three minutes time, was carrying it out to her car for her.
“I’ll expect you, your fiance, and your siblings at my house tomorrow at 2:00 in the afternoon.” This stopped him in his tracks. “Grandma, tomorrow’s a Tuesday, I can’t get out of work.”
“Oh yes you can. I spoke to your supervisor’s manager on the way in. While he was arguing with me, he received a call from the store’s owner. Just for his impertinence, you have three days off with pay. You’ve worked plenty hard, enjoy it.”
The next day, all 27 members of the Klein family, plus 18 extended members were present. Grandpa Ezekiel looked as if he was a deer in headlights. As amazing a woman as she was, he couldn’t believe that she had accomplished it.
The entire family heard something in the living room. They went in to see Grandma working the VCR remote like a pro. You would hardly imagine she was 82. The television’s sound was elevated louder than normal to get everyone’s attention. Suddenly, the Macy’s Day parade was on the screen. What made this so surprising was the calendar. It read, not incorrectly, June 17.
Finally, Laura, her oldest could take no more. “Mom, what’s this all about?” Grandma smiled. “This past year was the toughest that our family has ever went through. From your Michael’s surgery to John’s accident, to your brother Harry’s job, it’s been hard.”
“We needed a little something to pick up everyone’s mood. Since it was too early for Christmas in July, I went for Thanksgiving In June.” Sally, your six year old helped me tape it last November. I wanted to see what I had missed by cooking. I saved it.”
That was the memory John smiled at as he mailed the package. It had been twenty five years now, but it had become a family tradition. At the end of that dinner, Grandma had given the wishbone to his Uncle Harry.
She had said. “We don’t believe in lucky charms in this family. God has, is, and always will take care of us. So take this, not as a good luck charm, it never did the bird any good. Take it as a reminder that no matter how bad it is, we have hope. We have food on our table, family beside us, and a future in front of us. Hope in God, and work happy. Use it as a plow not a wishbone. It’s the same shape.”
Uncle Harry did just that. When his son Wendell was struggling in school, he carved a wishbone out of a tree, and painted it white. That afternoon he gave it to him. It was passed along in the family from one member to the other over the years.
John received it last August when he had his heart attack. Now, it was going to his sister Sally. She and her husband had just adopted a child in need of a good home. He figured they could use the encouragement.
Grandma, who lived on a fixed income, couldn’t afford that extra Thanksgiving meal. John found out later that she had been saving for a new living room set. While she was far from even enough money for a love seat, they all sat down to a house filled with love.
Whether it was June or November, she knew it was always time for Thanksgiving. Time, not for the meal she used to illustrate it, but time to be thankful. Grandma taught them not to focus on the setbacks, but The God that set them up. Her last two sentences on the subject that afternoon were his favorite, “Obstacles don’t stop you, outlooks do. Hearts filled with Thanksgiving produce eyes full of possibilities!”