It was still three hours before the plane took off, a trifling amount of time compared to the months she had spent in New York, but which now seemed endless. Three hours, three very long hours, and then the countdown would finally begin. She would sit by the window, in the seat she had chosen herself, not too far in the back, not too far in the middle, place her hand luggage in the overhead compartment and then wait patiently for everyone to take their seats, savouring every moment of the secular and ever-changing ceremony that was the departure of an international flight. She would have carefully observed the safety instructions, fastened her seat belt and then closed her eyes. At the moment of take-off she would have held her breath, savouring the vertigo that each time enveloped her from head to toe as one does with strong, delicious flavours: wasabi, chilli, ginger. She would have thought of her mother, of her cold hands spreading sun cream on her in summer, of her father, of the patience with which he helped her make sandcastles as a child, and of her brother, who, to make her forget the disappointments of love, took her on a Vespa to breathe in the scent of the sea.
She would chase away her fear by embracing all three of them with memories: the plane would reach the highest point in the sky, the engines would be silent again, the commander's voice would wish everyone a safe journey. And she would suddenly feel happy. She looked forward to holding her family close and perhaps, she thought, she could cheat those long three hours by buying them a Christmas present. The hustle and bustle of the Big Apple and the responsibilities imposed by the Master's programme had distracted her from anything but her studies, shopping had taken a back seat. For six months, her days had followed a docile and linear path, made up of routines and pleasant moments, which she would certainly remember happily and forever. Breakfast at the café downstairs, with long coffee and cinnamon bagels, waiting in the underground with his favourite music in his ears, the walk to the entrance of Columbia University, surrounded by red and golden yellow leaves.
And then the gardens, the English-style brick buildings, the small, warm study room, the friendly classmates from all over the States and the rest of the world. She was not alone, she had never felt lonely: New York had welcomed her in the best possible way, helping her find a good room, good teachers, good friends. But the light of her country home in Tuscany, the chaos of lunches with relatives on Sundays, the pressure of her dog's paws pointing at her chest, the smell of her mother's meat sauce, the noise her father made tinkering with tools in the garage: all this, she had to admit, she missed, she missed every day, and of this attachment she was also a little ashamed. "Am I a simpleton? A mama's boy incapable of detaching himself from his family?" she had asked herself. Then, during one of her long afternoons of study, taking her eyes off the book and onto the glass, she had found the answer.
A billboard asked passers-by: "Why do you seek paradise elsewhere, when it is already inside you?". He does not remember what the sign advertised, but the message had arrived. He had a joyful family, extraordinary in its simplicity. What harm was there in missing them? Two more hours separated her from her departure; it was time for the presents. She had grown up by the sea but New York had taught her that even snow can be romantic and help you create your own imaginary world, made up of muffled stories consumed in the warmth of a fireplace or in the warm light of a candle. She would have brought some of that atmosphere home, buying a bottle of Acqua dell'Elba Christmas Notes Room Perfumer, with notes of orange, mandarin, honey and cinnamon. A gift for the whole family, to share with relatives on Christmas Day. But that was not enough.
Her parents had paid for that Master's degree, giving her a dream, and her brother had supported her throughout the preparatory phase, when she studied day and night to pass the admission tests. She wanted to say thank you to them, to show them how much they were the backbone of her life. She had fully understood it during that very trip: one day she would become someone, a bright future awaited her, but they would forever be her irreplaceable team. She would get her brother an Eau de Parfum Sport Acqua dell'Elba, with lemon, bergamot and pepper scent, and her father an Eau de Parfum Essenza Uomo Acqua dell'Elba, with grapefruit, sea rockrose and sage. The sea, which had seen them grow and play, would be a beautiful witness to their Christmas. And to his mother, the reference point of everything, the most important island of the archipelago, he would instead give the Eau de Parfum Arcipelago Donna, with the fruity notes of lemon, mandarin and apricot. That velvety hand that spread the cream and tenderly embraced her, that soft neck in which to sink when life was too hard, would from now on have a special perfume: that of the sea and its wild flowers, those that blossom in the sand and follow you with their thoughts wherever you go, even when you move away, even when you sink your feet into the snow, filling you with beauty and courage, forever.