Tom wasn't quite three when it happened. It was time for Sesame Street, and there was something else on the screen. He came running to get me, "Mama. Sesame Street's not on. There's a big car band." A car band; well, this was an interesting new one from the kid who had brought us the "living closet" (where the towels are kept) and the "rummin," the room where the sofa is located. I went down hall to check.
Sure enough. Big Bird was AWOL and in his place was the papal motorcade in downtown Chicago. The car band.
My challenge: To explain to an unchurched almost-3-year-old who was so important that he could require a car band, and usurp everyone's favorite feathered friend. I tried:
"Well, there's this man who has come to this country from far, far away. And he is a very, very important man. A powerful and important man." At that point, a picture of His Holiness, looking quite a bit like a Storm Trooper in his white robes and amazing headress came across the screen. I'm a gal who, you'll remember, grew up Near Philadelphia, and am quite familiar with men in outrageous outfits and funny hats -- we have the Mummers Parade each New Year's Day. But Tom had only one reference point, and this would become obvious in a minute or two. "He is why Sesame Street isn't on."
Blank stare in return. So I tried again.
"He's called the Pope."
"The Poke?" Close enough.
"A very important man."
"Like Darth Vader?" Tom inquired.
"Yes," I told him. "But a good Darth Vader." And at this point, the man in white was surrounded by a flotilla of black-garbed priests, and Tom knew he was right.