I believe in the Eem Team, my nickname for my cousins’ four beautiful young children. They are an alliterative sentence of siblings that opens with the proper noun and oldest girl Tasneem, accelerated by the very personification of action words twins Nasim and Noorudin. The youngest, Rahim, is both direct object of their fun and as resolute as a period to keep up. They live just a few houses away from my dad in Washington, DC. On many evenings and weekends, they race up the street for the adventures of Uncle Andre’s house: watching cartoons, eating sliced apples, staring into my father’s fish tank, or simply following him around the house. It is a roaring good time for them, and anyone else who happens to be at the house when cherubic Rahim swings open the large front door and calls, “Unc’a Andre?”
In the late spring this year, I changed up the Friday evening routine, and began to take the Eem Team to the track at our local high school. Around the fiery orange lanes, they would burn off residual energy, and give their parents a quiet kitchen in which to fix dinner. Seeing them have so much fun—Nasim and Noorudin pedal furiously on the Indy Five Hundred for tricycles, Tasneem make new friends, and Rahim practice running without falling—I vicariously de-stressed, too. At the time, my job was demanding a lot from me, and I often felt defeated and trapped. Somehow their joy in playing, laughing cleared my head. After an hour or two, we would trudge back to the house for dinner, and the children would necessarily collapse in happy exhaustion. Rejuvenated, I would head off downtown for my own fun.
Where Friday was my highlight, Monday at work was the nadir. I had no reason to believe that it could get better. I couldn’t seem to do anything right, and was extremely frustrated. I thought I was smart and talented, but my confidence was really shaken. At the end of another long week, I vented long and hard around my cousins’ dinner table. In the midst of this conversation, Nasim appeared at my side and shoved white paper and an orange marker in my hand. “Rhonda, draw me a race car,” he said. He placed his small hand beneath his chin, and began the process of waiting. It wasn’t a challenge, or a request. It was a directive coming from three feet. A race car? I couldn’t draw a race car. Nasim looked at me expectantly. I was astounded by his complete confidence, and began drawing. Five minutes later, I had drawn a race car.
Work never did get better, and I ultimately left the company. It was a rough time, as I had truly hoped the job would work out. In those low moments, I replayed Nasim’s patient voice in my head, and remembered that precious instant when someone who knew no better or worse believed I could draw a race car.
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