began suffering from food allergies, and we started arguing. As emotions heated up, exacerbated by youth and poverty, I was surprised to learn that Kathleen had previously suffered from mental illness. The Bahá'í religion, to which I have belonged since age twenty, discourages divorce, instead advocating patience, reconciliation, and harmony. After a year of turmoil in the household, however, when Kathleen said she wanted a divorce, I decided not to oppose her wish. Although only three and a half years old, Naomi sensed something was wrong when I moved out of the house and she began spending time with Kathleen and me separately. During the divorce and thereafter, Kathleen's mental condition steadily deteriorated. She was suspicious of individuals close to her, talked to herself and to imaginary people, and complained of hidden bombs and intricate conspiracies targeting her. It was painful to see her coming apart, especially in front of Naomi, now four years old. Since the court had granted me full custody, Naomi remained under my care, but still spent time with her mother until Kathleen was sent to a mental hospital. I took solace in the thought that Naomi was protected somewhat by her innocence and her inability to understand the tragic aspect of her mother's illness.
As time passed, Naomi's relationship with her mother became a delicate matter, especially since Kathleen exhibited unpredictable behaviors and returned intermittently to the state mental institution. I taught Naomi to look on her with compassion and to remember how loving she had been before becoming ill. Even so, their relationship never regained its earlier peacefulness.
I began taking Naomi to a psychologist twice a week. Chama Ruiz was in her mid-thirties, with short, dark hair and olive skin. The centerpiece of her office was a shallow box filled with sand, and a shelf nearby held small items such as play figures, miniature dolls, knickknacks, and tiny tools. Naomi spent her time on the floor arranging scenes in the sand from objects she picked off the shelf, while Chama watched and sometimes engaged her in conversation about what she was doing.