It’s a tiny aluminum bracelet with the name “Karen” etched into its face. It was among a handful of similar bracelets I discovered in a trunk in the attic of my parents’ home as my brothers and I were preparing to move them a few months ago.
To be honest, I can’t tell you much about the other bracelets I found at the same time, so intrigued was I with this one. All were engraved, as I recall, but with familiar names or titles, such as “Elsie” (my mother), “Sweetheart” or something like that.
But Karen … well, that was special. There’s no Karen in our immediate family and it was far too small to be worn by anyone larger than a baby. Perplexed, I asked Dad about it.
“That was for you,” he said in a very matter-of-factly way, “if you had been a girl.”
As my parents awaited my birth all those decades ago, my father spent many hours in the hobby shop at Port Hueneme, Calif., making things for the new arrival. That’s where he came across the scrap aluminum that he crafted into the bracelets. He also designed and built a newborn-sized crib that would travel well on the train journey back to the family homestead in Iowa.
That crib would eventually be used by Jack & Elsie Lehmer’s four boys, several grandchildren and is still in use by one of their five grandchildren.
I have known about the crib for many years, but I had never heard the Karen story. I suspect that most parents have their children’s names selected in advance, regardless of gender. It took me more than 60 years to learn my “altergender identity.” Do you know yours?