Weekend Assignment #86: Who are you thankful for -- who you won't be able to spend this Thanksgiving with? This is a chance to tell us about the people you care about who will be far away from you this holiday, or who have passed on but remain in your heart.
Extra Credit: Pumpkin pie vs. pecan pie -- which do you choose for Thanksgiving dessert?
First off, let me just say that I will not be boycotting John Scalzi's Weekend Assignments and Monday Photo Shoots. I know that some people disagree - violently - but I think he has been as honest and honorable as possible in an extremely difficult situation. I see no reason to cut myself off from his little exercises that I enjoy so much. Plus - get this! - by participating, we can entice readers to venture away from AOL USA to see what we've posted on Blogspot, AOL UK, or wherever else we've landed.
So. I've told you all before about what my dad did for me on Thanksgiving Day, 2002, how he helped to get me through the worst day of my life - from three thousand miles away. He's the obvious answer to this question. Then there's Ruth, my stepmother, (John calls them "your Dad and your Ruth"), who invited us to Wilmington for Thanksgiving. I took a rain check, because John doesn't like to fly, especially on holiday weekends. We'll do it some other time, as a real vacation. Yeah, I'm grateful for Ruth, who has had a great marriage with Dad for longer than my parents were married (and most of that was not great).
I can tell you I'm grateful for my mom, all she taught me, how she was there for me when I was a kid, and how we were friends and companions for most of the 1990s before her health got so horrendous. But honestly, I still can't think of my mom at Thanksgiving without pain. And Steve, my brother, well, I'm grateful for the times he comforted me as a kid, cheered me up with my stuffed animals, took me to church and maybe to the drugstore afterwards for a newspaper and a paperback book. But I've only seen him once in almost twenty years, so it's hard to be grateful about him at length, here and now.
So let's switch gears a little. We all had a terrible shock this week. Who got us through it? Our online friends, that's who!
Carly and Michael, Becky and Shelly and the rest won't be here in Tucson for Thanksgiving, and I won't be visiting any of them next week, except virtually. I've never seen a single one of them face to face. (Well, I've seen Howard, but he hasn't commented in many a month; and my friend Linda in Phoenix comments only by email.) I can't pass them the rutabagas, and they can't save me a drumstick. But they've been here for me, Carly and Michael, Becky and Shelly, Robbie and Maryanne and others. And I've tried to be here for them.
Here's the main thing I've learned this week. AOL can drive us away by being greedy and short-sighted, but they can't completely dismantle J-Land. True, some people will leave AOL, some will cut back on AOL and blog elsewhere, some will go the AOL International route, and some will stay on AOL US, either happily or with regrets. And yet, against all odds, J-Land still exists! It's more diverse than before, scattered across the blogosphere, and harder to keep track of. AOL Alerts can't help you with Blogger and Bravenet and so on. But we're finding each other, linking to each other, blogrolling each other as we figure out how to do that, and as we find everyone again. People are making discoveries about how to mitigate the badness, and spreading the news from blog to blog, board to board. And if someone comes back from somewhere, and asks what the heck happened, we tell them, and help them figure it out.
Now, it's true that tempers have flared. Here and there, people have said awful things to each other, and especially to John and Joe. There's also been sniping in the other direction, people saying loudly that anyone who is upset about the banner ads is a crybaby who should just shut up and go. But what is a family without the occasional fight? Can you honestly say that before the current crisis, you got along with everyone you ever encountered in J-Land? If you've been here a while, read widely, and written anything remotely controversial, the answer's probably no. And that's okay. You have particular friends in J-Land, people you love, people you like, and people whose words or pictures you view occasionally. Others have a different set of friends and acquaintances, with different tastes and interests and views on all those controversial subjects. And that's okay, too.
But within our circles of friends and acquaintances, we're still there for each other. Sometimes, we're even there for the people we don't like very much. We're a community, and that's how a community works.
That's who I'm grateful for this Thanksgiving. You folks.
Extra Credit: I often say that my favorite food is "pumpkin anything." I love pumpkin pie, pumpkin cream pie, harvest pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin bread, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, and even pumpkin seeds! Pecan pie's nice, John S., but I can get through a year without it. I can't seem to get through October-through-December without a least one portion of pumpkin something.
Dang. I'm hungry now.