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When I was a child, Mama had a way of making holidays fun and memorable. I still remember holding lit tapers and caroling along with hundreds of others in Jackson Square at Christmastime. We dragged a wagon with our picnic to Mardi Gras parades and spent our days catching throws and doubloons. In our Easter baskets every year, the treasure of all candy – the Panoramic Sugar Egg – was always found in the center. And every year, Mama threw a Halloween party for the family – even when I was a college student.

By the time I was in college, a new guest arrived for Halloween. Her name is Minerva, a kindly old witch with green skin, a warty nose, pointy fingernails, missing teeth, and a billowing black hooded cape. Though she appears to be mean and atrocious, looks are only deception to the undiscerning heart. Minerva is a sweet, gentle, tender woman, and all she wants is to be loved by people as much as she loves them.

We didn’t give away much candy after Minerva began to arrive at our home on Halloween: The children were afraid of her, sadly. Minerva understood their trepidation – they were only children, after all, and didn’t understand that her unsightly appearance was not a reflection of her pure heart. No, she is not a beauty queen and doesn’t fit into society’s pre-conceived notions of what defines true pulchritude, but even in her being rejected, she found forgiveness and understanding.

But people don’t often know much about being human.

Minerva visits the granddaughters back in 1993.

Happily, once Mama’s granddaughters began to arrive, Minerva found an acceptance in those little girls. They knew that this decrepit old woman who came to visit us every year was not the frightful person she appeared to be. Minerva told them stories of her home on the moon, brought them candy, and showed them an openness and a kindness that not everyone would. “If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world,” says Dorothy Law Nolte. Those little girls have grown up, but there were lessons they learned from a lonely old witch, so that not only do they look back fondly on the Halloweens of their childhood, but they also remember what it is to see from the eyes of the purest of souls – children.

Now that the great-grandchildren have arrived, I wish that Minerva could fly in from the moon the way that she used to do. But the passage of time has had other plans for her. She is not as healthy and mobile as she once was, so she prefers to sit by a bone-warming fire and pick up the phone to talk to another generation of children who recognizes in her a genuine spirit.

There are many things that Mama did to enrich my life and to solidify what family means to me. Minerva is one of them: There is a lot that one can learn about being human if she is wise, seeks The Truth, and does her best to live by it. (Thank you, Mama. I love you. <3)

Happy Halloween, Gentle Reader!

Children Learn What They Live

by Dorothy Law Nolte

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.

If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence.
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.
If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world.

(Copyright © 1972/1975 by Dorothy Law Nolte)