Benjamin finishes changing from his snow boots into his sneakers, then runs off into the classroom to show two boys his bracelet. It’s a delicate item, thin gold with small glass beads, the kind of thing you’d give a child for her Bat Mitzvah, which is indeed when someone gave it to me. I’ve never worn it; it doesn’t suit my taste, most likely because it’s jewelry. Lilah, who is completely obsessed with all jewelry, is wearing the matching necklace. It took a quarter of a century for someone to appreciate the set.
I turn to the teacher. “I warned him that bracelet might slip off and he shouldn’t wear it in school, but he really wanted to show it to everyone. He thinks it’s very beautiful.”
By the time I turn around, Benjamin is crouched in the corner, eyebrows caving in. He sees me looking and turns away, his five-year-old code of honor dictating that he cover his hurt with anger. I come over.
“What is it, Ben?”
“Did someone hurt your feelings?”
“They said they didn’t care about my bracelet!”
“Oh, babe. Well, let’s go talk to the teacher. Maybe she can help you explain to them why you love it.”
His eyebrows uncrease a bit, and he stands up. We start to make our way through excited kids assembling around blocks and number games, kindergarten’s version of the water cooler. A boy walks over, takes Ben’s hand, strokes it for a moment. I don’t know his name yet; I don’t know any of their names yet.
“Maybe he’d like to see it?” I suggest.
“Do you like my bracelet?” he asks his friend, restored to hope by the caress.
The boy examines it for a moment. “It’s kind of girly.”
“Oh, no,” I respond. “It’s on a boy, so it’s a boy’s.”
“But why are there girl colors?”
I feign surprise. “Are there girl colors?”
Benjamin looks at his friend, all earnestness. “Colors are for everyone.”