"It makes me kind of sad, Mommy," 5-year-old Punky told me the other day. "Everybody in my class has Silly Bandz except me."
"What in the world are Silly Bandz?" I asked. "They're these bracelets that come in different shapes," Punky explained. "Like animals and Christmas stockings and flowers."
"And every single kid in class has them except you."
"Yes," she nodded solemnly. I thought for a moment and then picked up the phone.
"What are Silly Bandz and where do I get them?" I said as soon as my most in-the-know friend picked up the phone.
"Oh my God," she groaned. "Silly Bandz are like the Beanie Babies of our kids' generation. They're just silicone rubber bands, really. The kids wear them and trade each other for the ones they don't have."
"How did I not know about this?" I demanded.
"I'm wondering the same thing," she said. "They don't even let the kids wear them anymore at St. Matthew because they won't stop playing with them. My first-grader actually thinks they're called Contra Bandz now!"
We both giggled.
"Well, where do I get them? I said.
"Oh, I don't know," she said vaguely. "Gift shops carry them."
"Can you be more specific?"
"Like a Hallmark, maybe?" she said. I sighed in exasperation. Clearly, my so-called friend was keeping her Silly Bandz source to herself. I said goodbye and looked up Phillips Toy Mart in the phone book. If anyone had Silly Bandz, it would be Phillips.
"We're out," the clerk told me over the phone. "We should get a shipment of about 2,000 in on Friday, but call before you come over to make sure they're still here."
"OK," I said, frowning. I could only imagine the mommy melee sure to take place in Phillips' crowded aisles when 2,000 Silly Bandz hit the floor. Santa sweaters would be torn at the seams, Kate Spade flats scuffed beyond consignment. That was totally not my scene. I made a few more calls to nearby gift shops, but came up empty-handed.
"I just don't get this Silly Bandz thing," I said to a huddle of moms at a Christmas party the next night.
"Aren't they awful?" one of them said, shaking her head. "I work at Brentwood High School, and even the teenagers are wearing them."
"My 4-year-old asked for some last week," another mom sighed. "I was like, 'Honey, you're in preschool. How on earth do you even know about Silly Bandz?' "
"So where did you actually find yours?" I asked, a little too eagerly. The group grew quiet. "Well, there's a waiting list," one mom said, looking uneasy. "Or you can, you know, order them online."
"There's a Silly Bandz kiosk at Cool Springs Galleria," another mom volunteered after an uncomfortable pause. I laughed bitterly.
"There's no way in hell that I'm going all the way to Cool Springs for a pack of rubber bands," I said. "I'm not that desperate." But as I watched my daughter join a cadre of Silly Bandz-wearing kindergartners on the way into her elementary school the next morning, I wasn't so sure.
"Silly Bandz!" I laughed to a dad beside me. I tried my best to sound friendly instead of how I was feeling, which was slightly maniacal. "They're everywhere!"
"I know," he said. "I wish I'd thought of that idea."
"And they're so hard to find, too," I said, glancing slyly at him. The dad tugged at his collar uncomfortably and said nothing.
"I know where to get them!" his son piped up from beside him. "Sweet-n-Sassy!"
"Hup!" the dad barked at his son as he said it, before looking back at me, abashed. I grinned evilly.
"Sweet-n-Sassy, eh?" I said. "Gee. I did not know that."
I made plans to head to Sweet N Sassy the very next day, but late that afternoon, I found three packs of Silly Bandz in my mailbox. They were a peace offering from the friend I'd talked to on the phone. Thank God for Catholic guilt. "I have good news," she said when I called to thank her. "I found those Silly Bandz at a shop that's right around the corner from your house!"
When she told me the location, I laughed with cruel pleasure. It's the last place you'd expect to see Silly Bandz, which means that I'm pretty much guaranteed an endless supply whenever I need more. The next day, Punky went to school with a big smile on her face and Silly Bandz up and down both arms.
But don't even think about asking me where I got them. I'm sure as hell not telling you.
Read more Suburban Turmoil at www.suburbanturmoil.com.
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