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...a sweatshop of moxie

Friday, January 21, 2005

Soare cu dinti

There's a saying in Romanian...about a cold morning indeed but one in which the sun is shining; they call it "soare cu dinti", sunshine with teeth.

There are phrases in some languages that just capture the very exactness of life -- soare cu dinti is a living testament.

Today is such a day where I am.

Sun shining with a defiance despite the 50s° F weather -- not cold to be sure in Ulan Bator, balmy for Mongolians in fact, but the perfect weather for me, and yet the tiniest bit cold enough for me to put on a jumper as I drink tea on my balcony.

Stretching before me is the Bay of Biscayne, glittering and sparkly like a cracker whenever the sun chooses to rest on this wave or that, and the various oddments of houses, sitting like spoilt children, waiting to be plucked out by the sun.

The phrase itself reminds me of my schoolchum Alina Cantacuzino, a Romanian emigré foundling, who arrived late one schoolyear from New York. Her mother, it was rumoured in the cruel halls of my boarding school, had run away with another man, leaving her husband and child a few years ago. It was a story I was to hear rather a lot about Romanian emigrés, whose women were considered rather wild and not to be trusted.

Unlike almost all the rumours of one's childhood, this one turned out devastatingly true. Alina was the only girl in my form who, when Parents Day rolled around, didn't have a mother entered in the mother-daughter sack races. She was the only girl who, when Christmas rolled around, didn't receive a card and goodies bag from her mother, extra treats permitted by our Head, who otherwise kept a tight lid on excessive gluttony like all good low church Anglicans. She was the only girl who, at night, when some girls cried out during nightmares, didn't wake up rubbing her eyes, asking for her mother.

It was one morning, when the sun was shining against all odds in the depressing damp of Oxfordshire, that she quietly (she did everything noisily, so that was memorable in and of itself) told me about soare cu dinti.

I wasn't but 12 or so, but even then I realised, as children sometimes understand truths which become less noticeable with age, that soare cu dinti is not a phrase with which boring people like the good burghers of Oxfordshire can come up, they who stint themselves on too many sweets.

It's the kind of phrase that can only be dreamt up by a people who know that behind all happiness, there is a spectre of sadness lurking near.

I always enjoy sunshine, toothless or grinning. My mother taught me to, after all.


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