Giustina The Italian contessa of my heart


Life Sweet Gifts That Keep Giving – Coming

In June 1993, I took the ever-so-dreadful El Al flight 005, which I needed to take again and again from Tel Aviv to Los Angeles, as I was visiting Israel while I was living in Los Angeles.
It was a 15.45-hour journey, one of the longest routes on the global scale back then (well before the 18.30-hour flight from Singapore to JFK nowadays).

Melanie Nava’s Designs star
Melanie Nava’s Designs star

Going back to June 1993, in the aisle next to me sat a lady in her 50s, striking with elegance, beautiful in the European style, wearing a perfect suit, pearls neckless, and earrings, her blonde hair was immaculately styled in an updo. I was wondering how it would hold up during the 15-hour flight. If it was me, I would be a mess-up pile.

I was taken with admiration of her.
We started talking, her name was Giustina, Italian from San Remo. She was married to Moshe, an Israeli, and lived in Herzliya Pituach, Israel.
She had two children, a son and a daughter. Her daughter, Tamara, was living in Los Angeles, and she excitedly shared, “My daughter is about to have her second baby soon,” with teary beautiful blue eyes.
“Nava, where did you get your piece of luggage with wheels?”
She mentioned, “I already saw you in the airport with it.” She stated as a sharp-eyed lady that she was to detail.
I had one of the first overhead luggage pieces with wheels, which was a novelty then.
Imagine what 30 years can do to a traveling style.
I gave her the name of the store, “LAX Luggage,” and later, she told me, “I went right away to the store to buy it.”
She called me to share that her second granddaughter was born, and her name is Melanie.
We made plans to meet soon, as her daughter lived in the valley where I used to live.
I invited her for dinner with her daughter and granddaughter.
I recall receiving the most amazing sunflower bouquet I had ever received in my life, a memory I cherish to this day.
In January 1994, the Northridge earthquake happened, and the one person who called my car phone was her, worried if we were okay. I was moved, as my mother never called me at that time.

On her next visit years later, I was about to go to a wedding in Mexico and was about to wear an awful expensive designer dress. When I showed it to her, she made me change my mind and add a scarf to my other black strapless dress, which was a hit at the time, as I kept changing scarves for other weddings.
We kept in touch, and I visited her home in Herzliya.
She made the most amazing Italian Michelin three-star dinner. Her mango mousse for dessert is a culinary experience that still lingers in my memory.
We played cards with her husband Moshe, and of course, I lost.

Later on, her granddaughter, Melanie, became a model child for Nava’s Designs Catalog. We kept in touch, off and on, for many years. Then, I knew she had moved to Tel Aviv, and for a few years, we lost touch. Eight years ago, I went on a trip to India with a lawyers group, and one of the lawyers, Livnat, told me she lived in the building. I asked the neighbor if she knew of Giustina, and she did. I asked her if she could do me a favor and obtain the phone number for me. Sure enough, she did, and we got reconnected, and I visited her. We talked, and we kept in touch all those years. I visited her while her sister was visiting, and the attached image is of her late sister. Her beloved husband died too, and I sent love and visited her again.

Last week, I received a picture from her of her granddaughter, Melanie, my Nava’s Designs star, holding her baby, Sofia, the great-grandchild of Giustina.

I have to thank the universe for keeping the strangers from the flight in my life and helping my memory bank to shine through new experiences and new people.
In February, I will be in Los Angeles, and one of the things I’m promising myself is to reconnect with her daughter, Tamara, and to see her family.
Giustina, my forever beloved friend.
If I were to stop today and wonder who in my life deserves the title “The Contessa,” it would be Giustina. I love you, Giustina.

Hugs to Caroline
Hugs to Caroline

6 Responses

  1. Only you Nava can sit on an airplane, open a conversation with a stranger that turned into lifelong story. It connects Italy Israel and the unites States, however Nava is not done…. She keeps the connections with the younger generation. I am sure more stories will come.

  2. What a beautiful story.! The picture of the little girl, Melanie, and then the young mother with the little baby. You can easily tell they are the same bright person.
    Oh the years. They pass but memories and connections can endure.

    . Your Contessa is as beautiful as I imagined she was the day you met her on the plane. Thank you for being you, Nava, reaching out to strangers, and making them lifelong friends.

  3. You are a remarkable woman dear Nava!!!!!
    So blessed mom has met you on that flight!
    Looking forward to seeing you in LA

  4. What an enchanting tale! I loved enjoyed reading about the serendipitous encounter that brought you into my grandmother’s life. She is undeniably an extraordinary woman!

    These cherished photographs of my childhood, featuring me as a young model for Nava Designs, bring back wonderful memories. Your designs adorned my childhood bedroom for years!

    I look forward to seeing you in LA and I hope that you’ll have the pleasure of meeting my daughter, Sofia, in person. If only she could model for you as well!

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