I've been hanging out with the G.E.M.s (Great Edison Moms of kids in C. Peevie's class) since C. Peevie started kindergarten more than eight years ago. We came together with one thing in common: we all had a bright child in a small gifted public school.
Other than that, we were diverse in terms of our race, ethnicity, religion, income, education, zip code, marital status, age, number of kids, and occupation. We are black, white, Chinese, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Filipino, Christian, Jewish, non-religious, married, divorced, single, high-school-educated, college-educated, north-siders, south-siders, Sox fans, Cubs fans, 30-something, 40-something, 50-something, vegetarians, omnivores, teachers, writers, entrepreneurs, office workers, computer geeks, stay-at-home moms, nurses, and HR professionals with one kid, two kids, three kids, and more kids.
One mom, Professor Dred, was telling another how she got to know the group of moms over the years. "It took about three years before they realized that I'm just like them," said her insecure black self.
"No, Professor Dred," my know-it-all white self objected, "No way. I think you were always just another mom of an Edison kid to the rest of us."
"Oh, OK," she said, "Then maybe it took me three years to believe that you realized that I'm just like you." She went on to tell anecdotes about other Edison moms taking her daughter into their homes for an impromptu overnight stay because of inclement weather or personal circumstances; and I remembered that when I met her for the first time, she offered me a set of early readers for C. Peevie that her off-the-charts-smart daughter was long-since finished with.
We all love to laugh--oh, and we're all smart and good-looking, too. And some of us are crazy. One year K-Squared snagged a bunch of hot pink polyester bowling shirts at a flea market and brought them to our gathering. But how to decide who got one? The only fair way, we decided, was to have a Hot Pink Mama Contest. The only way to earn a shirt was to make whoopie in a Chicago Park District park. Not in the field house. Not in a car in the parking lot. In the park.
A shocking number of G.E.M.s have hot pink bowling shirts hanging in their closets. I am not at liberty to name names, because what happens in G.E.M.ville stays in G.E.M.ville.
We celebrate with an annual white elephant gift exchange: popular items this year included the Blagojevich affidavit (all 78 pages, which was handed around the room so that everyone could read her favorite quotes out loud), an out-dated-but-still-classic-looking desk globe, and a granite-weight crucifix candle the color of a toilet bowl stain.
No one tried to steal the crucifix candle--my own contribution to the gathering. I guess nobody in that group loves The Lord very much. Then again, perhaps they love him too much to love a really, really ugly wax representation of him.
One of our G.E.M.s, Madame Butterfly, brought a set of authentic lacquered Chinese chopsticks with a matching case, which all of us coveted. "Madame B.," I told her in a loud Archie Bunker voice, "You are apparently unclear on the concept of the American white elephant tradition. You are supposed to bring something lame from your house that you won't ever use--not a family heirloom!"
"Next time," Madame B. told me, "I'll bring a pair of used takeout chopsticks and a handful of dented beer caps." Now she's got it.
I am grateful for these G.E.M.s, grateful to be surrounded by women who bring hilarity, sensitivity, compassion, intelligence, kindness, and helpfulness into my life. Each one is a rare gem, and together, they are a tiara of pure awesomeness.