Close up of unrecognizable person carrying Thanksgiving turkey in dining room.

First Friday Message

"Turkey Knuckles"

I can’t lead off with “Turkey Knuckles” and leave you hanging too long without an explanation, but please afford me a minute to acknowledge that I’ve had to share a few tough messages over my last two First Friday letters. When I started these messages, my only promises were truth and transparency. Like many Ys across the country, we’re still rebuilding, and there will be times when we will have to face difficult paths along the way. And for those who respond to my messages – positively or more critically — I’m thankful for it all and, mostly, for keeping me grounded in the gravity of the decisions I often have to make.

So, let’s lighten things up a little bit this month, eh?!

With Christmas music already blaring on a loop in Lowe’s yesterday, I was reminded that we are quickly heading into the holiday season. One of the benefits of living in multiple places over the past 30 years is that you experience lots of wonderful cultural traditions around each holiday. Without a doubt, the featured Thanksgiving delicacies are wide and varied between Virginia (extra salty country ham), Detroit (too many cultural favorites to name), Miami (whole roasted pig!), and Pittsburgh (they put French fries on everything!). And as a non-discriminating partaker of all of that goodness, it is fair to say that I’ve sampled all of that and more.

Towards my latter days in Detroit, shortly after I met my wife but long before I could let my guard down around her parents, I was invited to join the family for Thanksgiving. Rhonda’s dad was and continues to be the primary orchestrator of the yearly feast and his prime rib is legendary. I was on my best “PRE”-son-in-law behavior and looking forward to sitting down with the family for the meal and as the dishes began to be passed around, soon came something that I wasn’t familiar with…Turkey Knuckles.

I quickly learned that this dish was Rhonda’s mother’s “specialty”. It was mixed with stuffing (not a favorite of mine) and wasn’t the most visually appealing of options. And between you and I and the internet, I adore my mother-in-law, but she’s a bit heavy-handed with the salt and she’s often much better at ordering great food than preparing it.

So, what’s a good son-in-law in waiting to do?

When you see me in your local Ys, I’ll tell you how things went that day, but my message today is less about that turkey knuckle casserole and more about appreciating the time we have to create and nurture great memories with friends and family. My first serving of turkey knuckles continues to be a core memory of mine, but I remember the love and closeness of family that night much more.

As you all go into this holiday season, I pray you all can relive warm memories and create brand new ones. Our time here is short, let’s make the most of every day we’re blessed to live in it by being a blessing to those around us.

Until next time...

Kevin Bolding, President & CEO
YMCA of Central Florida

The Y. For a better us.®