“Have you eaten breakfast?”

I stared at him, confused. 

Milliseconds passed as I wondered what on Earth had prompted my misinterpretation of this question.

Surely he had asked something else. 

I was in the Apple store, after all. 

He must have seen the perplexed look on my face when he followed with, 

“I just know that when we are under stress, we forget to eat.”

I wanted to bawl cry into his arms.

This simple act of human kindness had reduced me to near tears. 

I was there on business. 

My phone battery was dying mid-day, every day and had been for months and now, as I sat by it, waiting for important calls from doctors, it felt more dire than ever. 

It was the straw that broke the camel’s back- the reason I’d finally relented to replace my battery. 

And now I found myself in front of this young man, asking if I had remembered to eat breakfast. 

“Yes.”  I managed.  “I don’t normally, but today, I ate.”

He smiled.

And I left with the reminder that, life or death, humanity perseveres. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

The Golden Door

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

– Emma Lazarus

My father is first generation American. 

Italian, born and bred. 

So, when I graduated high school I asked for proof. 

In other words, bring me to them. 

My relatives.  

We traveled first to Rome. 

A hotel, he’d booked online.

We’d spent exactly two nights ever together in a lifetime and suddenly, 

we were residing in a closet.

On to Naples, Pompeii and Calabria: the place of my grandfather’s birth. 

Rich with olive trees, oil and seven-layer fresh lasagna. 

Here, I bonded with my foreign relatives as I screamed “Aye! Aye! Aye!” on motorbike 

through winding streets, experiencing food like it was the first time.  

Eating “al fresca”, pretending I followed their animated conversation. 

Next, to Sicily where we knocked on many a neighbor door 

until we stood in the room my grandmother was born in 1898.  

I looked around and wondered, “how?”. 

And here I am.

Standing in my father’s hospital room wondering, “how?”

If there was ever a man to give to the tired, the poor, 

Those that needed to breathe and required refuge, 

He’s right here. 

Beside the golden door.

And here I am. 

Standing in my father’s hospital room wondering, “how?”.