She had that in-between look, somewhere twixt child and young woman, as she stared blankly at the distant booths of the Crescent Park Bazaar in New Orleans.
She was dressed smartly: nice leather coat, dress jeans, stylish glasses and well-done bobbed haircut. But her look was a little lost.
Until the music started.
The band The Limited began the next tune in their repertoire of original indie-folk music, and she slowly moved toward them, like a traveler heading down a mystical enchanted highway paved with notes and rhythms. She followed the strumming of the guitars, the movement of the lips that produced sounds transfixing her with amusement and motivation.
I could say she stood out in the crowd — but she didn’t, because she was the crowd. Aside from myself, she was the only member of the audience. But the band played on full tilt, just as if they were in a crowded hall filled with applause.
Between songs she suddenly turned and walked to me. She jutted out her hand and, shaking mine, she asked, “What is your name?”
“I’m Eliot, what’s your name?”
“I’m Lauren,” she responded, and then pointing at her nose, “I’m going to be a clown.”
“Where?” I asked.
“At St. Michael’s,” she said.
St. Michael’s is a school in New Orleans that helps children and adults with special needs. I would have gotten more details about her clown debut, but the music started again and she was drawn off to a place of personal bliss that could, in its own way, be envied by many.
And then, after a few more songs, she turned, gave me a childish fingertip butterfly wave, and floated off down the rows of bazaar booths filled with those joy trinkets we use to soothe our selves and stuff our drawers.
I don’t think the band really knew what went on during those few songs, or the award bestowed and the reward given under their awning on the banks of the Mississippi River.
It’s not an award made of tiny golden phonographs or platinum records.
This day, The Limited did not win a Grammy. They would have to settle for the Lauren Award: just the simple honor of joy, given through their music.
Eliot Kamenitz lives in New Orleans.