We talk about skin color a lot in our family. Oddly enough the color we talk most about is Jake’s. “How come you’re so white?” Dave asks him. I often say, “Buddy, do you feel okay?” and check his forehead even though I know he’s perfectly fine. He’s just so very, very pale.
So pale, in fact, that at the height of this summer, when the rest of us were various shades of tan, Em began calling Jake, “Piece of Paper.”
“Hey, Piece of Paper,” she would call when she wanted something from him.
We all thought it was hilarious, though Jake pretended to be offended, and the nickname has stuck.
Last week when I picked PJ up from his new preschool, he pointed to an African American boy getting on the bus parked in front of us. “Mom, see that brown boy? He’s in my class.”
“I see him, Buddy!” I turned to smile at him. “He’s brown like you!”
PJ gave me the face that says, how can you be so old and still be so dumb? and said, “I’m not brown. I’m black!”
“No you’re not. You’re brown, too.”
He shook his head. “Compared to him, I’m black.”
“Compared to him, you’re dark chocolate, and he’s chocolate milk.”
We both laughed, and then I thought of something. “But compared to Piece of Paper, you might look black!”
That really set him off. “Piece of Paper!” he kept saying, laughing more each time. “Next to Piece of Paper, I AM black!”