"Look out the window, guys!! It's Santa!!" I yelled.
An African-American man dressed as Santa was, for some reason, standing outside of our local assisted living home and waving at passing traffic.
"That's not the real Santa," The Mayor told Rooster knowingly.
"What do you mean?" I asked him.
"The real Santa has light skin. That Santa had dark skin."
My jaw fell down to my lap.
"How do you know he wasn't the real Santa?" I asked.
The Mayor sighed impatiently.
"Mom. Remember last year we went to see Santa? He rode in on a fire truck, remember that? Santa had light skin."
"Well how do you know that THIS isn't the real Santa and THAT wasn't some light skinned guy dressed up like Santa?" I countered.
"Mom! The real Santa rides to restaurants on a fire truck!"
Then I got into an argument with a three year old about Santa's race.
"THE REAL SANTA COULD BE BLACK!!!!"
[Oh, the effectiveness of hysterical mothers everywhere!!]
I was not winning.
[All references to the Turkish origin of Saint Nicholas and the possibility of a family compromise around the idea of a Santa with olive skin where met with complete disdain.]
The Mayor's insistence that THE REAL Santa was white totally threw me.
It is important to me that my children grow up not just to respect difference, but to really appreciate it and, at the same time, to understand all that binds us together.
Later that same day, The Mayor and I read a holiday book in which Santa was a featured character.
"See, Mom!" The Mayor said pointing, "See! There's the real Santa and he has light skin."
I've been thinking and thinking about what I can say to The Mayor.
I want to say something that conveys my values around human difference and, at the same time, honors his strongly held convictions about Santa.
This is what I have come up with so far...
"Mayor, the amazing thing about Santa is that he has the ability to look exactly the way each and every little boy and girl needs him to look. Santa knows how to be just what each of us needs."