She sat back in a corner of the parking garage surrounded by hundreds of people, dozens of children especially. It was hot. It was noisy. It was crowded. We discovered her on a quest for restrooms.
Before her on the table lay much used Ziploc bags and airless balloons waiting to be blown up. She had the colorful, big hair wig, red nose, gay costume of large blocks of color and the painted smiling clown make-up including the smile. But I noticed she wasn’t smiling. Beneath the layers of white and gaily colored make-up this lady clown was sad. I also noticed she paid no attention to the impatience of the children in front of her. In turn, they paid no attention to the signs her manner was giving to them.
She was blind.
Her careful twisting of the balloons into either the shape of a dog or a hat was completed with great care. I wondered why, for some of the children were very impatient, the children who longed to rush off to join in other activities stayed if they couldn’t wait. She wouldn’t see. They didn’t see.
Once a child reached the spot beside her the Lady Clown had them select the number of balloons she’d need to make their chosen object – dog or hat. It wasn’t until then that some of the children realized the clown was blind. So many of them reacted visibly shooting glances at their impatient parent waiting to move on, mouths falling open but it seemed an equal number never realized the Lady Clown couldn’t see them. Or the balloons. Or the crowd. Or the finished products taking shape beneath her fingers.
My heart wept inside for her. I wasn’t sure what brought her into this noisy crowd that day. Perhaps a desire to be a part of something larger than herself. Or maybe the need for human contact. Or maybe the simple reason was a need to give a part of herself away. Clearly, whatever her motivation for being there was, if it was to make her happy it was not succeeding.
We left the Greek Festival, my daughter clutching a balloon hat and my heart straying back again to the Lady Clown. I had to fight the temptation to ask my daughter to treat the hat with extra gentleness, to not play with it, wear it and eventually pop it because the toy she held was a piece of a woman’s heart.
I wondered if someone would come to help the Lady Clown home. To gather her belongings and help her take her clown costume and make-up off…to return to the woman she was in daily life.
Was she lonely? Was she loved? Did she have children who were now grown with children of their own?
I understood, at least I believe I did, her desire to give what she could to make the event of her church successful…to want to feel a part of something larger than the limitations of her disability. I prayed God would take the gift she was giving, which of course, really wasn’t balloons at all, and return it to her a hundred times a hundred. I also prayed the Lady Clown’s face would wear a real smile on her face, even if again she wore one also painted on.