ADA: "I HAVE A LIFE NOW"
The road led east out of town, winding down the valley toward the reservoir. It was chilly and overcast, but the misty green hills carried a hint of better things to come. It was a morning in early May, Mother's Day. Although I hadn't been back to this area for several years, the road ran through familiar territory. I'd traveled this way many times during the years I worked as a therapist at the local community mental health center. On this day, I was looking for an unmarked dirt road leading off to the right and into the woods. Ada lived in a trailer at the end of the road. Following her directions carefully, I made my way slowly down the muddy path and into the forest where I could see the outline of a trailer through the trees. Stopping by the front steps to gather up tapes, recorder, and papers, I was nervous. Even with ten years of interviewing experience in community mental health, this was a new endeavor. I had piloted the interview format and reviewed it with other experienced clinicians, but being invited into a stranger's home to ask some of the most personal and painful questions imaginable is always a daunting experience.
The trailer was small, even as mobile homes go: old, well worn, and rusted. The yard was a mixture of young grass and mud, strewn with toys. I knew from her demographic form that Ada was twenty-three, married, and had three children. Judging from the toys, they were small children. The demographic form didn't provide income information, but it took only one look to tell that Ada and her family were poor. I hesitated when a dog started barking around back, but there didn't seem to be much choice. I was here and it was time to begin.
Ada appeared on the small front porch and called out a friendly 'Hello.' She reassured me that the dog was both harmless and fenced in, then cautioned me to watch the steps. They looked about as old as the trailer and wobbled a bit as I climbed. After the initial greetings, Ada invited me to take a seat at her kitchen table. While I was setting up the equipment and testing it, she told me that her husband had taken two of their three boys for an