Thanksgiving Lesson

Katie - Sandwich, Massachusetts
Entered on May 17, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

I am generally a pretty quiet person. Although I don’t exactly revel in this fact, I don’t hate it either. I like being the person that my friends know will listen to them, without getting caught up in all of the loud, annoying drama. But I also know where to draw the line, when to put myself out there and just be loud, whether I like it or not. Which is why I believe in killing cats.

Not literally, of course, and just in case anybody gets offended; let me say that I love cats. I have two of my own. My version of killing cats is simply metaphorical, revolving around a family joke from a while a go. It started when I was eight, at Thanksgiving dinner. It was the year that my grandmother, at a young 80 years old, brought her new fiancé to dinner. His name was Bill, and he was nice enough, but very quiet. He probably talked three times the entire night, so nobody was exactly expecting any Shakespearean soliloquies from him. While dinner was winding down, we sat in the comfortable, stuffed kind of silence that sometimes follows a big dinner. It wasn’t exactly an awkward silence, but maybe Bill thought so. All of a sudden, just out of the blue, he said, “Have you ever tried to kill a cat? It’s not as easy as you might think!”

We all kind of sat in awe after this pronouncement; no one was sure what to think. Half of the people there had honestly thought that he had fallen asleep. He kept going with his story, though, despite the fact that the silence had gotten, if it was possible, quieter. In the end, it turned out to be impossible to kill his aunt’s cat because it ran away. (The killing was out of mercy, by the way, not cold blood. It was the thirties.) When he finished, it was like a corny movie: people took about half a second just to absorb what had happened, and then suddenly everybody burst out laughing. Bill looked pleased with himself, and then just settled down and began eating some apple pie.

This was a moment that my family chooses to remember as Bill’s icebreaker, when he really opened up and became an actual part of the family. I choose to take it as more: as an inspiration to open my mouth, even if it would be easier or more comfortable not to. When I meet new people, I always try to find something that I have in common with them and talk about it. If that’s not possible, I bring up something funny that’s happened recently. “Oh yeah, that reminds me of the other day, when I fell flat in the mud at Lacrosse practice!” I learned from Bill that humor is the best way to start conversations. Make somebody laugh, and the discussion will begin flowing easily. That’s why I believe, in moments of doubt, in telling people just how difficult it was to kill that cat.