Life Speaks

Studio City, CA.

A job as a scriptwriter with Dreamworks Entertainment. 

That is where I was headed the Summer of 2005. 

I had the roommate, the apartment and the moving van ready to go. 

And then I pulled the plug two weeks before I was due to leave. 

Was it the boy from Jersey that I was in love with?

Was it cold feet?

Or was it intuition?

They say hindsight is 20/20. 

But here’s what I know. 

I ended up moving in with a family of four children. 

I enjoyed helping the first grader learn how to read and after moving back to my hometown, decided to shadow a teacher to see if it would be a good fit for me. 

I ended up getting a Masters in Elementary Education Pk-6 and later, using it to homeschool my own children. 

And lookie-here.  

I’m still writing. 

Maybe not moving to Cali was a mistake. 

Maybe I’d be rich and famous! 

But I’d like to think that I’ve always had a keen sense of self. 

The ability to get quiet and listen. 

And what I heard back then was, “Don’t go.”

As a result, I met my husband.  I had these four beautiful daughters.  I became a teacher and remained a writer. 

Perhaps the best stories in life aren’t fiction, but our very own.  

Life speaks. 

Me as “Sissy” in Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean Jimmy Dean , 2000

A Story for the Ages

Did I tell you about that time I was robbed in Italy?

This morning my second daughter asked if Olive Oil tasted gross, since it is the only oil I use to cook our fourth daughter’s meals. 

And with reverence I exuded my enduring love for olive oil, ever since visiting my family’s olive tree farm in Calabria, Italy.  

I wish I had words to describe the experience of existing amongst an olive oil tree farm, being in the presence of literal tanks of fresh olive oil.  Olive trees as far as the eye could see.  

When I took my first taste, life, as I knew it, would never be the same. 

Think, eating a fresh tuna off the boat versus tuna fish in the can. 

There is no comparison. 

I was 18 and for my graduation, I had asked my biological father to take me to his homeland. 

I had never lived with him, we had shared a roof only one weekend before but it was important to me to know my roots. 

He was first generation American and I had never known my grandparents. 

So, he agreed. 

Our first hotel in Rome was a closet.  Talk about zero to one hundred.  We had rarely spent a night together, nonetheless nearly touching!

I love yous had never been said, instead, as a child, he would grab my ear lobe and look at me with endearment. Like he loved me so much he couldn’t even believe I was real.  

But there we were.  Father, Daughter. 

We traveled to Naples and Pompeii and then on to the olive tree farms in Calabria, meeting my grandfather’s relatives.  

They, speaking only Italian, welcomed me like they had known me my entire life and served me a lasagna for a table of 15 that I will never forget.  

My cousins threw me on the back of their motorbikes and whipped me around the mountainous roads as I learned to scream, “ay-aya-aya-ay!!!!!”.   

We left in our rented, bright-blue Mercedes for my grandmother’s homeland of Licodia Eubea, Sicily with only a few days of our trip to go. 

I stood in the room my grandmother was born.  

I am 38.  My dad is 90 this year.  My grandmother was born in the 1800s. 

This was major. 

And then we were robbed. 

We were lost in an alley in Sicily when a motorbike blocked our rental car’s way, while a thief on foot opened our back car doors and stole our backpacks containing nothing but nine rolls of film, my journal and a legal pad with the names and contact information of all the relatives we had met along the way. 

In other words, our memories. 

We left Italy with one roll of film. 

And a story for the ages. 

Never Forgotten

What about the ones who never were?

Who would they have been?

What if it feels like they were already here?

When we first learned of their existence.

Sure they never were born of this Earth, 

But for a time, they were alive.  

And for many, it will always be this way. 

Mourning the loss of what-if.  

Who would they have become?

Years pass, 

And yet, they are still there.  

Always with us. 

Never forgotten. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Lesson Learned

We are all a product of our collective experiences.  

It is easy for me to wish away the sad things that have happened in my life.  

But if it weren’t for those, I wouldn’t be who I am today. 

This, as Oprah says, I know for sure.  

But I’m-a-tell-y’all-what. 

Divorce is a terribly, sad thing.  

Particularly when children are involved.  

I was on my way to visit colleges with my step-dad, whom I had called “Dad” since I was two years-old when he announced, “Your mother and I are getting separated.”

Is it just me, or do you never ever forget that moment?

It’s like the world stops turning. 

Sure, maybe I had known it was coming in some sick and twisted way, but did I ever want it to truly be?  

No.

And yet, there it was.  

Worse, they were in business together and weren’t going to announce it to the very close-knit family company until January so now, I had a secret to keep. 

That Last Christmas, we rented a house in nearby Sandbridge Virginia Beach, Virginia, decorating the tree one last time, only to grab our individual boxes to keep the ornaments we each wanted when the week was over. 

It was the one of the saddest moments of my life. 

Fast forward 20 years later and now, who are we?

If you were my dad from age 2-18, does that mean you are my dad for life?

If we were step-sisters and brothers then, are we still?

Time passes, parents re-marry. 

Who are we now?

Collateral damage.  

Oh, but not me.  

Because I have my own future to tell. 

Divorce, my children will not know. 

Because we chose carefully. 

We waited until we met one another to make that kind of commitment. 

To be together until death do us part. 

To raise our babies with love and joy. 

To choose them. 

To choose us. 

Forever and ever.

Collateral Damage No More. 

Instead, lesson learned. 

This kind of love is forever.