NOONIN’–An Anniversary Commemorative for My Brother Harold

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My older brother Harold was one of my greatest inspirations. He was an artist, a genius, and a risk-taker. With only fifteen months separating our births, we had plenty of time to bond, feud, fight and love before any other siblings came along. Harold always lived on the edge—the edge of discovery, genius and sometimes trouble. He walked the fine line of genuine exploration to rebellious experimentation.
In many ways he was ahead of his time—he was always ahead of me. Being a year and three months older than me put Harold in a different age group, class and group of friends. Harold’s friends always seemed so cool and suave. I had crushes on a number of them but never could expect any reciprocation–as a ‘younger’ sister I was off limits. It was Harold who introduced me to jazz through his favorites Yusef Lateef and Rhasan Roland Kirk. I remember him blasting Yusef Lateef’s Psychomotus and Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s Here Comes the Whistleman. At first I did not understand the complex rhythms of works like Yusef Lateef’s 1984. That, however, didn’t stop me from carrying the album around proclaiming my love for jazz. I loved all things Harold.
I never fully understood Harold’s proclivity for scientific inventions and experimentation. I nevertheless honored it, as did my mother who rented him a space not far from the house where he could freely conduct his experiments without risk of setting fire to his room at home. I never was allowed to visit The Shop, but I’m sure there are those out there that could tell some stories and I will leave that to them. I do know that Harold was fond of electronic and chemical experimentation and this is what frightened my mother. As far as I know, Harold didn’t have any major mishaps at the shop.
One of Harold’s invention masterpieces was a complex water pipe that stood at least two to three feet off the floor. By then, Harold’s experiments had taken the contemporary turn of the sixties and somehow he very generously included me in some of his experimentations. Luckily my mother never found out about this joint ‘science project’.
One time my late brother Alex recounted to me a story of Harold having a fight with a neighborhood cohort named Herman. Alex told me that during the fight I went to jump on Herman’s back. I don’t remember this, but I don’t doubt its authenticity, you see, I was ‘down’ with my big brother. I would do anything necessary to tip the scale in a neighborhood brawl if I had to.
As I moved on to college, marriage, relocation and life in general, Harold continued with his journey through the sixties experimentations, Williams College, where he graduated and numerous romantic and platonic liaisons. He always kept his edge as far as I was concerned. I would see him on my visits home or sometimes I would run into him somewhere. Harold had his first child, son Rhasan-Rhasan during this period. I remember him telling me about the name which ostensibly was a tribute to musician Rhasaan Roland Kirk.
When we were very young, Harold and I used to play this game where we walked around the house on our knees. I actually can’t imagine such in the present-day state of my knees and joints in general. We somehow called this activity ‘Noonin’. I have no idea how we came up with the name, but I remember enjoying this activity when my mother had to step out for a short while. Much later when we were both adults during a telephone call Harold asked me if I remembered Noonin. Actually during the conversation I drew a blank—but later—I don’t know when, I suddenly remembered what Noonin was. I was then amazed that my brother could and would remember such a detail—a detail that would forever bond he and I, in this world and the next.
In the eighties and nineties I migrated to Northern California where Harold and my younger sister Mary had both migrated. Harold was busy creating and displaying his unique sculptures and lighting creations. He seemed somewhat content by his work in the creative arts. The last time I saw Harold, he came to my son Waleed’s wedding. He was dressed in African regalia like the king he was. He was the best I had ever seen him.
There is so much to say about my brother Harold, that this brief commemorative will not do him justice. I always keep my brother in my heart and in my prayers. His actual time was brief in earth years, but he had an existential quality that made him ageless—at least in my eyes. He will continue to be a part of my stories as long as I am able to tell them. I sometimes honor Harold with the name Abdul Musawwir—the servant of the name of God meaning the Fashioner, Shaper or Designer
Harold passed away shortly after I moved to Kenya to teach in 1996. His life was a gift and his death I see as but a short separation. We were linked in a way that the ethereal concepts of earth-life cannot erase. I still see him in my dreams and know that one day by God’s grace; we will go Noonin down the pathways of Paradise.
©Linda Tauhid
For Linda Tauhid’s Journal
January 13, 2013