Meghan Cox Gurdon: When life seemed unlivable without zebra-print duct tape

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Local,Meghan Cox Gurdon

Passion may flare and burn with a brilliant light, but like all fiery things, it will eventually run out of fuel and die. And the cold embers that remain, well -- oddly enough, they always seem to turn up in the laundry room.

It is there, in a basket that holds all sorts of unclaimed oddments, that you would find scores of curled-up Silly Bandz.

Remember them? A few years ago, schoolchildren were competing feverishly to collect what were essentially boring rubber bands that came in bright colors and would, if you laid them on a flat surface, take the shape of a two-dimensional object. You could buy bands shaped like stars or giraffes or ice cream cones. Even boys sported great colorful tangles of them on their wrists. A million allowances were squandered -- and no one bothers with them now.

Nor do Uglydolls seem to have much allure, and so they, too, have inexplicably taken up residence in the laundry room. Here is a baby-blue monster with soft wings, here a three-eyed pink creature with its tongue out, and there a tiny lime-green figure with a key ring attached. Like the Silly Bandz, these stuffed toys once excited great passion in the hearts of the young. Now they bring only the barest shrug of recognition (though it is true that the pink guy recently attended a teddy-bear tea party, but that was because the hostess needed an extra man to balance the table).

Thus, it was with a pang that, after hearing a large-ish object knock against the side of the washer drum as I was pulling out handfuls of damp clothing recently, I saw what it was. The infatuation had been so powerful -- and now this!

I had been running errands only a few weeks earlier when my phone had rung.

"Mummy! Are you still at the hardware store? Phew. OK, can you get me some rolls of duct tape? In cheetah print and hot pink, and maybe denim?"

"Well, sure, but why?"

"It's cool, and fun to have, and to stick on things. Everyone has it."

"Hmm. It's expensive, $6 a roll. How much do you want to spend?"

There was a flurry of negotiation. Did she really have to spend her own money? What if we split the cost? Pleeeease?

OK, be that way. Just two rolls, then. Please.

The duct tape came home and great was the love affair. What one child obtained, others desired. They made bright-orange duct-tape wallets and zebra-print duct-tape belts. They taped leopard-printed duct tape around posters, to make frames right on the walls ("Don't yell, Mummy, it comes right off!"), and covered their notebooks in garish duct-tape stripes of fuchsia and green.

It was duct tape this, and duct tape that -- and now here was a roll of the stuff, plump and wobbly-looking after its trip through the wash. I knew what this meant.

When an object of childhood obsession starts turning up in the laundry room, it is a sign of doom as inescapable as lipstick on a collar. Oh, the tape might be reclaimed from the oddment basket, and perhaps even used a bit longer. But the thrill was gone.

Meghan Cox Gurdon's column appears on Sunday and Thursday. She can be contacted at mgurdon@washingtonexaminer.com.

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