My new basketball hoop is going to be amazing. I waited forever to finally replace the rusted, bent rim I’ve been playing on for the past four years. This one has a clear shatterproof backboard like the ones in the NBA. Plus, there’s an adjustable height lever
you can use with one hand. I chipped in for half of it using the money I had saved up from my birthday and Eid. My parents paid for the rest.
But after three hours and thirty-seven minutes the hoop is still in pieces all over the driveway. My dad is drenched in sweat. My uncle, Jamal Mamoo, is cursing under his breath and probably wishing he hadn’t come over today. And I think my mother is pretending to understand Chinese, since that’s the only language in the instruction booklet. She keeps rotating the pages to look at the drawings from different angles.
“I think it’s the other end that’s supposed to go in this thingy,” Mama says, pointing at the booklet.
“No. It. Doesn’t. Fit. That. Way.” Baba has a washer pressed between his lips and
speaks through it in a low growl.
“It’s too hot outside,” Naano declares from the doorway of the garage. My grandmother doesn’t believe humans should be in the sun for more than five minutes. “How many hours are you going to do this? Stop now. Come have chai.”
I look around in alarm, but no one seems ready to quit yet. My family is the kind that loves to watch do-it-yourself shows together on TV. These are the programs about regular people who tear out their kitchen cabinets or showers and install shiny new ones. We comment on their choices and how all the people seem just like us. Until they start cutting tiles or using power tools. Then we decide they must secretly be professionals.
The do-it-yourselfers on TV are nothing like the Saleem family. We don’t usually fix or
build anything ourselves. My parents don’t own a toolbox or a single leather tool belt. There’s only a sagging shelf in the corner of the garage that holds a hammer, a box of nails, random hooks, and a screwdriver or two.
But it cost an extra seventy-nine dollars to get the hoop assembled. So here we are, putting on a bad reality show for our neighbors. I can’t prove it, but it sure feels like they are walking their dogs a lot more than usual today and smiling at us extra hard.
“You guys are doing it wrong.” My older sister, Zara, saunters outside holding a glass of lemonade and wearing a know-it-all look on her face.
“Zara!” Mama snaps her head up from the drawings. “We don’t need your commentary right now.”
“Okay. I thought you’d want to know I watched a video with instructions. The guy was NOT doing that.”
“Wait.” Baba turns around and glares at Mama. “There’s a video?”
“There’s no video listed on here,” Mama says, flipping over the booklet. “Unless the link is written in Chinese?”
“What video?” I ask Zara.
“The one on YouTube. There’s a guy who goes through all the steps one at a time for this exact model basketball hoop. You should watch it.”
“YOU THINK?” Baba explodes. The lady from two doors down and her tiny yappy dog both jump up, startled as he shouts. I can’t help but grin.
Jamal Mamoo catches my eye, drops the pieces of the base he was fumbling to put
together, and lets out his wacky laugh. Soon Mama joins in too. Before we know it, we’re all howling with laughter. Even Baba. Nana Abu, my grandfather, comes shuffling outside because of all the commotion.
“Hold on a second.” Mama puts up a hand, gasping for air. “What’s so funny?”
Her question just makes us all laugh harder. I drop to the grass and roll around until my stomach hurts, but in a good way.
Two hours and twenty-three more minutes later, I finally get to try out my Spalding hoop. It’s as nice as I thought it would be. Maybe nicer. Best of all, we did it ourselves. Mostly. The dog lady felt sorry for us and brought over her husband and his set of tools to help us. Zara brought out her tablet and kept rewinding the parts of the video until we figured it all out. Nana Abu stepped in
for Jamal Mamoo when he left to meet his fiancée, Nadia Auntie, for a wedding-cake tasting. (I volunteered for the tasting job, but my uncle said no way.)
I take a couple of shots and watch them go off the shiny new backboard into the perfectly straight rim. My game is already so much better than it was last year. I’m starting point guard on the team I’ve worked so hard to be a part of. I’m hoping Coach Wheeler will pick me to be our new team captain now that my best friend Adam left. We’ve turned our season around and have a chance to make the playoffs. Plus now I can practice at home and not worry about adjusting my shot to make it go in.
“We did it,” Baba says. He puts his arm around Mama, and they gaze at the hoop proudly. They’re going to have a lot more to
be proud of soon. I can only imagine incredible things ahead of me. My future is looking as good as my new hoop.