Family & Friends · Lifestyle

On Thanksgiving: More to Be Thankful For


My absolute favorite holiday.  It has all the good things holidays have: family, food, love, togetherness, martinis. And best of all, NO GIFTS!

I’ve always loved Thanksgiving, even when I was a little kid. My mother would cook for days. We used to run out of room in the fridge and always had to put her very special ricotta cheesecake on the window sill to keep for the few days until the big day. I  swear, the Bronx air added some flavor, because that cake was always the most delicious part of the meal. We didn’t have a car, so we used to shop at the local supermarket that delivered. When the boxes came to the apartment building, they brought lots of comments from the other tenants. But for me they brought the warm feeling that the holidays had begun.

Yes, Thanksgiving is the gateway to the happiest time of the year. We celebrate life and good times.  But as we all know it’s also one of the most stressful.

I try not to let Christmas and New Year’s creep into Thanksgiving. I feel it deserves it own time, and work hard not to let go of that. As always, my children and husband have enriched my emotional education and taught me some things about Thanksgiving.

My husband: my childhood sweetheart. The man who still sweeps me off my feet and makes me laugh. We laugh so hard sometimes when we are together it’s truly a gift to be thankful for. We laugh at the world and have learned how to laugh at each other. He works so hard and never wants to do anything but provide for his family. He’s an amazing man, the most unselfish, kind person I ever known. He is like a rock, strong and reliable. And I thank God for having him come into my life. I know my mom would have loved him, and spoiled him just like she did me. I feel bad sometimes that he didn’t get to experience that. He’ll never know how she would remember all your favorite things and make sure she cooked them on your birthday, and always had time to hug you, not only when you were leaving or coming in the door…but anytime. Two amazing people, and I was blessed by having both of them. I am thankful.

The "Siblinghood" crew. Nicholas at right.

Then, my Nicholas—my tall, handsome strong, smart, funny, stubborn, Nicholas. He will change the world. At 15, he already has. His web TV show, called “Siblinghood,” airs this January. He has given me a lot to be thankful for. He has taught me what it is to be a star, or maybe a magnet. He has people attracted to him like a bright light. Everyone wants to be around Nicholas, yet he doesn’t even seem to notice. He just moves along, volunteering, supporting friends, mentoring younger teens with disabled siblings, does well in school, sports, and acts like this is just what 15-year-olds do. I know it’s not. He is my bright light—the light that always lights my darkness and worry, and my fears too.  He tells me I’m a great mom and he trusts me. And I am inspired.

My Joey. I sigh as I type his name, my beautiful little boy who is 5’5′ now and so handsome he could stop traffic. He is the most thankful, because he enjoys everything to the fullest. He really lives and loves what he does. Even eating a cupcake is a whole joyful experience for Joe. And when I let go of thinking about the stains on the sofa, I giggle as I watch him eat one and smile at the love he has for even the simplest things.  He has taught me without question how to be thankful. For so many things, like the kindness of others. I could have never done, or do, autism alone. Thank God for those who have held my hand and told me they are inspired by my dedication and hard work to help him. Joe has taught me honesty—there is no love more honest then my Joey. It is pure and without  any motive. It’s the best love ever, different from all the rest. It’s without doubt  the closest thing to heaven.

But this child who smiles all the time and loves to be tickled works so hard at everything and has taught all of us how to be thankful. It took Joey almost two years to learn how to say ‘No’ and use the word appropriately. So we have learned not to take ‘No’ for granted, and how important that little word is. Not to mention cases and cases (and the cost) of bad fruit cocktail—it was something he really hated, so we used it as the way to learn ‘No.’ And finally it worked.  Joey now says ‘No’ and uses it often—sometimes too often.

Joey couldn’t look at his mama. Imagine not being able to look your mom in her eyes.  Her proud, warm, loving eyes. I think how often I looked into my mom’s, and in an instant got everything I needed, from faith to hope and courage. He couldn’t do it, but with hours of patience and a therapist and flashlights, he now looks into my eyes often for approval. And I am thankful each and every time.

My Joe also couldn’t keep his clothes on. Yep, naked he was! His clothes must have felt like knives sticking him. He used to peel them off immediately, even a diaper. I love clothes, love to be stylish and dress up for parties. Imagine losing all of that. But now he stays dressed and looks mighty handsome, I might add. And for this, too, I am grateful.

Unfortunately, Joey has also taught me hurt and anger—for those who don’t see his beauty and don’t treat him as if he has any worth. I never have felt such anger and intolerance as when it comes to him and the situations he has incurred. But he has taught me how to make that work, too, by turning it into the fuel to keep fighting when I ‘m so tired I feel like I can’t even move. To keep fighting autism. I think of those folks who don’t appreciate him, and think: we can’t give up!

And I remember all the things that autism took away from Joey. And what Joey thankfully gave us. So in return, I must give him all I can back.

So this Thanksgiving, as always, I will count my blessings and remember to enjoy them.   And thank God I realize it!

And pray for more things to be thankful for next year.

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  • Dana Quinn-martinez November 30, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    I admire how you always look for the good in all people.It does not surprise me to hear all the wonderful things Nicholas does for his brother and community, for you are his mother.I am so happy to know in my heart that you and your family are doing well.You all deserve the best.I am very fortunate to have you and Nick in my life as well.You are a gift to others!

  • Susan Samora November 29, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Phyllis Lombardi is so awesome. I am grateful to be in her
    sphere of influence. She is a dear, wonderful friend, I love her and am bless to be her friend and she is a brilliant and fantastic poet.

  • Holly Finley November 29, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    My dear friend Phyllis. This is one of the most beautiful and touching pieces I have ever had the honor of reading. You my friend are a loving inspiration to all. I adore you, your beautiful boys and of course your husband. I cried as I read every word realizing how very much I take for granted, how easily I am distracted from being able to be appreciative and how very thankful I am to know you. I especially love your vision of how special Joey is, a true gift from God. I love that you are his Mom and appreciate the joy he sees and feels in the simplest things, we should all be as fortunate to have his gift. Thank you for sharing this. You are a wonderful Mother and friend and I know your Mom is watching over you and is very proud of you. My only regret is that I wish I had read it sooner.

  • Gina D November 28, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Great Article Phyl!
    Yes, you bring back the happy memories of the Bronx Italian Holidays. It’s great how the traditions continue with us!
    All your guys look great! Keep us informed about Nicholas’ web TV show.
    I am right with you continuing to fight against Autism!
    Holiday Holidays,

  • Jo Mink November 28, 2010 at 9:36 am

    You certainly captured the memories of a Bronx holiday. Every Sunday was a holiday for an Italian family in the Bronx, but when a real one came along….hold tight. Family & Food always went hand & hand. That was the core of the celebration. Pizza Rusticca is what I remember as ricotta pies cooling on the window sill. The family came, the whole mixed bag of nuts, and we would eat, play and fight. Each and every holiday. Much to be thankful for.

  • Carol Solanto November 27, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    When I read your articles, I am reawakened and thankful of you and your beautiful family. You and Nick and Joey and Nicholas are such an inspirational part of all of us. You make us better just because of all you do and are.
    Your words bring tears to my eyes. You are always in my thoughts and prayers.
    Love you,
    Aunt Carol and Uncle Joe

  • Erica Hezi November 27, 2010 at 11:55 am

    You are an amazing writer. You have a true gift to be able to articulate such beautiful sentiments in such a poignant way. You always bring tears to my eyes.

    I know that I am thankful that I have met you and have you as my friend. My life has been enriched by meeting you and now sharing a special friendship with you.

    You are an inspiration!

    Love you,