Seven women -- all of them mothers, all but one mothers of sons -- pull their chairs in a circle and talk about the difficulty of wanting peace.
Across America, there are countless support groups for relatives of troops serving in the Persian Gulf, support groups serving the needs of many who have been caught up in this war or on its fringes.
But until now, say these women, who gathered for the first time yesterday in a bare room over a Baltimore restaurant, support has been hard to come by for those opposing the war.
"I've felt tremendous isolation since I took this pro-peace stand," says Mary Brenneman, who drove from Anne Arundel County to attend the meeting. "My own community of friends, they don't want to talk about this, they don't want to hear how I came to this stand."
The group was the idea of Naomi Dagen Bloom, a social worker, and Sally Mericle, a graphic artist. (The two are also promoting peace by selling a stamp designed by Ms. Mericle with the message "NO WAR.") The support group grew out of feelings of frustration, Ms. Dagen Bloom says, and the certainty that there must be others with similar feelings.
They found other like-minded thinkers yesterday afternoon in Waverly. Although the seven start out strangers, they share their thoughts with a familiarity born of sympathetic feeling.
"It's very comforting, after driving around for weeks looking at flags and ribbons, to be in a room of people feeling like me, to know you're not alone," Ms. Mericle says.
"[Most] people don't want to hear things like that sanctions need more time to work," says Cathy Mikesell, of Sykesville. "There are so many things going on. I'm as concerned for the people suffering in Iraq as I am for the people here. No one here is suffering. We don't even have to wait in line for gasoline."
She adds something she would not have said in other circles. "I'm very angry at our government. I am not proud to be an American."
Talk moves on to yellow ribbons and American flags.
"I'm so fed up with all these damned yellow ribbons," says Dee Turner. "Do I support our troops? Of course, I support human life. But I don't support their reasons for making the choice to be there. I understand that many had few options, but if we put the same effort into teaching peace that we put into teaching war . . ."
Her voice trails off. "These yellow ribbons don't support soldiers," she adds after a moment. "They support Bush's war."
Ms. Mikesell has chosen another way to deal with the yellow-ribboning of America. "I wear a flag, a yellow ribbon and a 'NO WAR' badge," she says. "Why should the pro-war people be able to co-opt the American flag?"
A scheduled hour of support and talk turns into almost two. There is general agreement that war money could be better spent on the homeless and AIDS, that Americans don't try to understand other cultures, that the women's movement has been deplorably inactive on the peace front.
There is agreement, too, after the meeting that their feelings of isolation have been replaced by a sense of community, however small.
"I have been feeling very frustrated and helpless," Ms. Turner says. "You keep hearing that 85 percent of the country supports this war. I know it's not that simple."
The peace support group will meet again at noon March 7. Anyone interested in participating should call 367-4167.
Send listings of events related to the Persian Gulf war to Gulf Events, Features Dept., The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278; or fax it to (301) 782-2519.