What Is Luxury?


By Diane Haynes Woodburn

Diane Haynes WoodburnBy the time you read this, we’ll be exactly a decade and a half into the century. But as I write, it’s Thanksgiving eve, and once again I find myself juggling magazine deadline, holiday parties and a houseful of family, all with the grace of a one-armed wallpaper hanger. These are the days I’m glad to have A.D.D., and am only too able to find a quick vacation for my brain in any available diversion.

“Look,” I exclaim to my husband, Jamie, “The box is finally here!”

We’ve been home from our trip for almost two months, but the package purchased in Italy has only just arrived. As my fingers trace the foreign labels, I’m happily transported to Florence, roaming the ancient cobblestone paths and alleyways where the smells of fresh-baked pastries, strong espresso, and hot pizza beckoned like sirens. If one escaped succumbing to those heavenly aromas, it was only to fall to temptation at the corner gelato stand. The shops were no less seductive. A storefront with hand-painted ceramics and an elf-sized door had caught my eye. Inside, a Geppetto of a man sat on a wooden stool, spectacles perched on his high nose. “Buona sera, Signora,” he smiled, his paintbrush poised over a ceramic plate. My only question: What to choose?

“Here’s a scissors,” Jamie offers, bringing me back to the task at hand.

As I cut through the tape and cardboard to unearth my treasure, I recall how that day had concluded: a truly Tuscan feast with friends, then a languid, meandering (and slightly tipsy) stroll towards our hotel. From nowhere, it seemed, came the sound of distant music — sweet, clear voices floating above us in song. We followed it to a high, lighted window behind which an a cappella choir was practicing. Their melodic voices resonated through the air, echoing off the centuries-old rock walls that served as our private cathedral. Other passersby joined us. I heard whispers in Italian, French, German, Arabic. We smiled at one another, eyes lifted to the small window in a serendipitous moment of harmony and joy.

Indulging ourselves, whether it be travel, food, or adventure, is a good thing, I decide. You never know where you will find the most wonderful surprise. In this, our annual luxury issue, we offer fun and, yes, some extravagant ways to indulge yourself and those close to you, from living like royalty in the magnificent Montage, to nurturing body and soul through Hawaiian healing. Or how about being whisked off by helicopter to a ranch that’s all yours for a day, complete with a private chef? Treasures abound in these pages, but as I recall our evening under that window in Florence, I’m convinced that the best treasures are those you least expect, and that aren’t material at all.

I’ve wrestled the box open, Styrofoam peanuts strewn like snow over floors and tables as I dig for the bounty within. Finally, two platters emerge, brightly painted with sunflowers, pomegranates, olives and apples. I display them on our kitchen counter, and then move to the stove to chop onions and squash for our Thanksgiving meal.

“Do you wish we were back in Italy?” I ask my husband dreamily. “It was great,” he says, “but I’m glad to be home.” I glance again at our painted Tuscan platters and imagine the sumptuous dishes I will fill them with, and the family and friends who will join us tomorrow to share them. “Me too,” I grin, and turn happily back to my cooking.

Wishing you a year filled with the luxuries of good health, family, friends and moments of unexpected harmony and joy.

A hui hou,

Diane Haynes Woodburn


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

− 4 = 4