Kathleen Laid Down Her Basket & Left a Gift

The Little Girl & Her Basket

By Kathleen Brush-Meccia

There was a little girl whose daddy was in the Navy. “Bell bottom trousers, coat of navy blue – I love a sailor and he loves me too.” Her mommy had her sing this song for everyone quite often. She was a very good little girl, but a terrible pain in the ass!

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
Kathleen & family, post World War II party

 

Her mommy was awful upset about the war and wondered if the daddy would come back o.k. The little girl wanted to help somehow, so she started filling her basket with her mother’s worries.

There was already some ugly stuff in it, because the little girl thought, or her mother thought, she was born too soon after the marriage, and her mother was only 20 or so and hadn’t spent too much time with her husband before the war had taken him away. I don’t even think the mother thought she wanted to be married. They had come from different backgrounds.

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
Kathleen, her mother Eleanor Marie James-Brush, & her cousin Buddy James

The little girl wanted to help, but she didn’t know how, so she just started taking on her mother’s unhappiness and plopped it into the basket and carried it everywhere. She really thought she was helping.

When her daddy came home, she continued to be this terrible pain in the ass – because she was afraid of so many things – high places, low places, fire, water, bugs, and even merry-go-rounds. She was afraid of doctors and dentists. They got thrown out of many a dentist’s office. Her mother was probably embarrassed. But most of all she was really afraid of being left alone. Also she was very lonely. She even had an imaginary playmate. Boy, did she have an imagination! She even drew her friend on the sheet one time. That made her mother very angry. Her parents had their own problems. But she kept being this pain in the ass and filling her basket.

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
Best cousins – Kathleen & Buddy James

The little girl didn’t know why, but she felt her parents didn’t like her. No matter what they did for her, the girl kept having terrible, terrible nightmares and got hysterical a lot because they tried to shock her out of those fears. They must have thought something was wrong with her, because they took her to a child psychologist when she was about 5, she was told. Then again at 13. When they didn’t know how to handle her anymore, they just didn’t. But they never stopped letting her know what a terrible pain in the ass she was.

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
Kathleen, first communion

She was a very lonely little girl, but her mother made her pretty clothes and made the most wonderful things to eat. They also went a lot of places and saw lots of things. She doesn’t know why but she was frightened very easy. She was anxious all the time and got too excited. She was very unhappy, because she thought her parents didn’t want her. She had nice grandmas and aunties who spoiled her to death. She spent lots of times at their houses – probably because she was such a pain in the ass to her mother. She was a flower girl twice and she really thought weddings were very happy. She was even on TV and won a puppy and dog food. She really loved the puppy. She was in school and did well – she was afraid not to – the nuns were sort of mean. She went to church and she loved God very much. But she asked an awful lot of questions. She continued to be unhappy and kept filling her basket. Her dad wasn’t there a lot of the time and her mother was also unhappy. Her mother liked love songs – she does, too. Her mother must have loved her father very much.

Then one day she came home again from school and her puppy was gone. She thought her heart would break! Her mother had sold her puppy and she walked and walked and walked to visit her puppy until the people moved.

Her father used to come take her on Sundays. He even took her to see his girlfriend Toni. This made her very unhappy and she liked him even less. Her basket was so heavy, and she had to lie to her mother about where they went. This made her feel very “guilty.” Then she told her mother the truth and her mother was very sad and the dad was really angry with her for telling her mother. She also remembers the father beating the little puppy for chewing inside the car.

Her mother knew how to keep busy – she cleaned all the time and she kept making the same wonderful things to eat. The little girl thought it would really help to carry the basket. The little girl became chubby and it was a real pain in the ass to find clothes for her, but she went to the Catholic school and they wore uniforms and it wasn’t so bad.

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
Siblings – Anne Marie, James Robert, Kathleen, Elizabeth Jane, & Robert Charles Brush

Her little sister came when she was 7. She didn’t like her too much. She was sickly and got lots of attention. Then the father came back and they moved to the country. It was real different and another sister was coming. There were other dogs, but they all had to go, too. The little girls weren’t responsible enough to take care of the dogs and the mother got tired of cleaning up dog shit. One puppy was sick, and she remembers warming a brick for him to sleep next to. She thought he was going to die, and when he did she thought it was her fault for not taking good enough care of him. She couldn’t understand that pain comes with living – she thought living was supposed to be all happy.

The little girl liked the girl scouts and riding her bike. She really missed her dogs – she loved dogs! Her mother used to give her money to go to the dog shows in the city. Her dad even took her to some. And she still went to church and loved God. But she was still a pain in the ass. She remembers going lots of places alone, even on busses and trains.

The little girl didn’t know why she was extra sensitive or hurt extra much, or was afraid extra much. She was quite clever, but her mother didn’t like this about her either. She never learned patience or self-discipline and she had a hell of a time getting through life. But just imagine this basket filled with pain, guilt, and shame. She really wanted it to be filled with hopes, dreams, and wishes, even pretty flowers. She never learned how to “enjoy” and she didn’t know any better. She didn’t want to be a burden. Her mother used to tell her she was just like her father and he caused lots of unhappiness. She believed in the buy now (enjoy)-pay later plan. Sometimes she still does.

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
Kathleen with her visiting grandfather, James Francis “Jimmy” Keating

Then, it seemed suddenly, that something happened. She started growing. She had new feelings – sexual feelings, and she didn’t know how to handle them. She began to have crushes on boys – even men! These new feelings felt good – even made her forget her basket sometimes.

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
Kathleen’s most admired sibling, Bobby, from whom she drew inspiration. Bobby was born with down syndrome & met his challenges daily for 52 years.

Another brother came and her father wasn’t there too much. Her mother worked a lot at night, and she took care of her brothers and sister. When her father was there, he was asleep in the green chair. She couldn’t stand all that it had become, and she wanted to get out of there. Her father did and said cruel things to her, and it really hurt her – they fought about her constantly.

She wasn’t so chubby anymore, but she didn’t get to do too many fun things with her friends. Her mother never liked her friends. So she started to ‘sneak” and she got caught. She really felt guilty! Then she was 15 and got herself pregnant. She had committed the most cardinal sin of all. And her heart broke when she realized how much she hurt her parents. She gathered even more pain for her basket, and left with it.

Many sad years followed. She sifted through the contents of the basket quite often to make sure everything was in there.

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
First family – husband John Edwards Jones with twin sons James Mark & John Michael Jones

She became a baby factory. Sometimes she’d sit the basket in the closet on the shelf, but she always knew it was there.

Then she started having silly, stupid crushes again. She wanted someone to love her so badly, but she just kept getting into disasters. She cried many times. “Will someone please help me carry this basket?” But no one heard her. Even all those babies were pains in the ass, too – she never stopped loving them. She just didn’t know what to do. She wanted to dance and have fun but she couldn’t. She was sick and miserable and sorry. Boy! Was she sorry!

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
Jones children – Lisa Marie, Jean Marie Jones & the twins

So she set out back and forth across the country lugging babies and her basket, searching for someone or something that would make her stop hurting. She even took pills and was a hippie, and she had even more babies. There were people to hold her for a while but they always left. A lot of strange people were her friends but they didn’t hurt her. They even helped share the basket sometimes.

She really hated herself for the mess she made of her life and the hurt she brought to her parents and babies. But no matter what she did, she was wrong to her parents. But most of all she wondered why no one could love her. Why is she such a burden to everyone?

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
John Albert Meccia, her third husband

Then she met “HIM.” He was just as unhappy as she. They, of course, would love each other and make each other happy. He was so big, and strong, and handsome and bold. She just knew he would love her and protect her from any more harm. After so long she was finally going to be happy. Boy, was she wrong. He couldn’t even take care of himself – and yet – still – they had more babies. Oh, how she loved him, and he wound up hurting her more than all the others combined.

He’s gone, too, and considers her a pain in the ass! What did she do so wrong? Why is she such a burden to everyone?

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
Proud mother & daughters – Ann Meccia, Mary Cronk-Steele, Cara Crew Meccia with daughter Lauren, & Ellen Cronk-Credi

Now there are four babies left, and guess what? One is helping her carry the basket. Another one torments her and is such a pain in the ass, but at least she understands. I don’t think the little girl’s mother did. One is very bright, and one is a budding pain in the ass. But she still loves them, and would never part from them no matter how many mistakes they made. She would like to be friends with her family again, but they seem to want her to be unhappy. She wishes she knew why.

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
Kathleen, enjoying the little things.

                                                                                      She feels sorry for herself a whole lot of the time – because there is no one else. She still has nightmares and thinks God might have left her side, too. She’s not even sure if she wants to live, but she can’t leave her babies.

She feels sorry for herself a whole lot of the time – because there is no one else. She still has nightmares and thinks God might have left her side, too. She’s not even sure if she wants to live, but she can’t leave her babies.

She feels sorry for herself a whole lot of the time – because there is no one else. She still has nightmares and thinks God might have left her side, too. She’s not even sure if she wants to live, but she can’t leave her babies.

Her heart is so scarred; it never even started to heal. She wants to put down the basket once and for all, but she doesn’t desire to hold it anymore. Besides, the basket itself is frayed and becoming unwoven. Please teach her how to set the basket down, so she can live happily ever after.

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
Kathleen Brush-Meccia, enjoying life with a wicked sense of humor

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No one ever teaches us how to live happily ever after.

When my dearest cousin Kathleen gave me this story many years ago, I was so thrilled with it that I told her she had produced a gift. She should write more, I said. Regretfully, she never did. But she did grant me her permission to publish it. I’ve been saving it to publish in a book of stories written by other cousins and family. This unexpected moment, though, seems a more appropriate time.

From childhood, when Kathleen and I were best buds, I always admired Kathleen. I never saw the pain of which she wrote. Had I seen it, we probably would have grown closer than we were. Our lives and our pains were not too much different.

What I did see in Kathleen was a beautiful girl, who grew into an attractive young woman, who took her life and literally ran with it. I was doing the same. Where Kathleen sought her fulfillment in having eight children, I sought mine in a career, just as time consuming, busy, and often thankless.

No one teaches us that our children produce lives of their own, or that our lives might not turn out as expected. That, we teach ourselves.

But time does come eventually to put down our pain, so we can live on the other side, in the joy of what our life created when we took it and ran with it. If we put that legacy in writing, it is left to others for the taking. A story like Kathleen’s story becomes a sustaining legacy, more valued than money or property. Our story is an heirloom, an endowment, and a gift.

Despite a world of ideas, no manual on how to live happily ever after has ever been written. There never will be one. With our very lives, we write our own. The gift of our lives, and what we have learned and what we can teach, will be lost unless we share our story.

Kathleen Ann Brush-Jones-Cronk-Meccia laid down her basket one final time on January 27, 2015. But she left each of you a basket to pick up, holding her gift of this story to you.

Kathleen Brush & Buddy James, aka Eric F. James
Kathleen Brush & Buddy James, aka Eric F. James