Of course there was a cruelty to it, I see that now. It was like someone had yanked the veil from our playground pecking order: a densely banded arm confirming top tier status, the outcast as exposed as their own naked skin.
At the peak of the craze we were looming five hours a day – break-times, lunchtimes, round each other’s houses after school, through the weekend till our fingers ached. Tasteful greige carpets strewn with bright rubber bands became our habitat; flimsy plastic implements, our must-have tools. Looming past our bedtime by nightlight glow, we were already dreaming the next day’s exchanges.
My friendships were solid then. I was one of four girls united by our twin loves of crafting and mucking about. We narrated our looming sessions in drunken Minion voices. We played Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ so much that we heard it even when we didn’t. We shared designs and traded special edition glitter bands for loans of our best sequinned tops.
My big sister joked that loom bands were crack for tweens. When top-ups of my favourite colours arrived in their clear plastic baggies, hilarity sank her, cackling, into the creases of the sofa. I was too wrapped in my addiction to care.
It sounds farfetched but there was something almost spiritual about it. Take away the tat and you had that perfect weave of creativity and purpose, mastery and challenge. Shit: you had the suspension of time.
To begin with the grown-ups were overjoyed. Isn’t it creative? They beamed. So good to see them making their own entertainment!
The sheen came off when they heard about the choking risks and some lad in a neighbouring town lost a fingertip. Environmental concerns whispering in our parents’ ears were nothing to news that carcinogenic fakes were flooding the market. Their enthusiasm gave way to frantic packaging inspections and stern warnings to pack everything away carefully. Then, abruptly, a united U-turn: No more loom bands. Use up what’s left. That’s it.
It didn’t matter because within a fortnight loom bands were over.
Bucking the trend brought its own rewards. The rubber mountain dumped on me – a surplus of greens, browns and oranges – made enough bracelets for cousin Lauren’s September wedding. Accessorising her guests was a fresh delight; watching my loom-work spin round the dance floor on wine-loosened limbs, the ultimate high. It’s something I return to when I think about how elusive contentment is these days, that sense of the adult world unfurling before me, as tantalising as it was vague. I had another year of living that way – unplugged, shielded from reality.
There’s endless talk about mindfulness these days, but ‘in the moment’ is just where kids are before their heads get clogged up. It’s where people are before every second thought becomes a worry that must scream for its place.
In the flow of our looming, we looked neither backwards nor forward beyond the weekend. Our time and our minds were our own – and when we glanced up, we saw only possibility.
Lucy Goldring is a Northerner hiding in South West England. She has been shortlisted by Flash 500, the National Flash Fiction Day (NFFD) and Retreat West and recently won Lunate Fiction’s monthly comp. Lucy was nominated for Best Small Fictions 2020 by both NFFD and 100 Word Story. Tweets @livingallover