When I was younger, my Mom liked to dress me to the nines. Which at times included a beret. Now, a lot of kids would see a beret as a fashion challenge. But for me, my beret collection was my armor.
When forced to interact with kids I didn't know, I would shut down. I'd sit a little to myself, not saying a word but taking it all in. And maybe it's a kid thing. Or maybe it's just the lack of culture in Arkansas in the early 1990s, but if I was wearing a beret, the other kids would assume I was French.
They'd look me over, point, and say loudly, "Excuuuuuse me, little girl. Are you French?" Knowing that at this point it'd be a total disappointment if I busted out my Springdale accent, I'd usually respond, "Oui! Parlez-vous français?"
And after they got wide-eyed and walked away, I'd secretly say a thank you prayer for the hours of Madeline I had watched over the years and my trusty beret.