What Are You Doing Here?

It’s the little “Wow! What a small world!” kind of coincidences that make this adventure even more incredible. We were walking down a street on the edges of Colonial Williamsburg dreaming of the luxurious Thanksgiving Feast that awaited us in the Williamsburg Lodge. A car pulled up beside us and the familiar face in the window said, “Hello Beckers.”

Rachel & Mary Keeling and their mother, Leslie Henson, surprised us in Williamsburg!

Rachel & Mary were in our Youth Group at FUMC in Poplar Bluff during our four years of Youth Ministry (circa 1993-1996). We have incredible memories of the time we had with them and their classmates.

Rachel is working in Washington, D.C., Mary is still going to school in Springfield and Leslie lives in Poplar Bluff. Evidently, Rachel couldn’t come home to Poplar Bluff for Thanksgiving so Leslie and Mary decided to head East. Like us, they decided the best place to enjoy Thanksgiving near D.C. was Colonial Williamsburg (170 miles from D.C.). They were heading to the same feast in the Lodge that we were.

What a great time of hugs and catching up we had and a great reminder to us of all our friends back in Poplar Bluff on this Thanksgiving Day.

Colonial Williamsburg – The Birthplace of America

We knew that a visit to this historic city would be cool, but it was much cooler than we imagined it would be. As we began our tour of the old colonial village, the boys stepped back into the 18th century with a change of clothes; a period style shirt, a shoulder pouch, a tricorn hat and a musket. When dressed they were given this written greeting:

Dear Young Gentlemen,
Welcome to Williamsburg! I hope that you and your horse are well rested, and I trust that you did not meet with any villains or robbers along the way. I am happy to say that the roads in Williamsburg are free of such scoundrels!

I am sorry that I cannot greet you myself, but there is urgent business I must attend to. We have run out of shot for our cannons. I am taking my horse to Kemp’s Landing to see if cannon shot can be had there. Our cannon are useless without shot! We are as defenseless as field mice.

Have you considered becoming a soldier? I ask this because I have heard much about you. I have heard that you are a good scholar, you never protest or complain, you never speak ill to your parents and you are trustworthy and brave. Indeed, I have heard that you are a gentleman of honor. Our company of soldiers needs lads such as you!

If you wish to join our short drill, report to the sergeant on the porch of the Guardhouse beside the Magazine on Market Square at Eleven Thirty of the clock.

I must bid farewell for now. Please accept my hearty thanks for your help! I hope you find Williamsburg to your liking. My regards to your parents.

I Am Your Most Humble Servant,
Richard Dawson

And so that is just what we did. Ben and Jack knocked on the great big door of the Guardhouse and when the sergeant answered the door, each boy said after announcing his name, “Reporting for duty, sir!” Then the drill began. Whew! The orders came fast and furious. They kept up as best they could. The sergeant named them the Awkward Troop.


The weather was very cold with a soft mist falling so to warm up a bit we bought a delicious hot apple cider and a gingerbread cookie from a local merchant. We entered the village courthouse and heard how legal matters were handled in the 18th century. Outside stood the stocks where an offender in that day was secured by the hands and head and left in public to be ridiculed or abused. Then we toured the home of Peyton Randolph, cousin of Thomas Jefferson and key revolutionary figure of the day. The traditional dinner featuring a main course of cow head on a platter elegantly displayed on the Peyton dining room table made our mouths water for the meal that awaited us in the Williamsburg lodge…

With just a few more steps to go before reaching our Thanksgiving feast destination we heard a voice from a car driving slowly by saying, “Hello Beckers!” What a pleasant stroke of synchronicity! It was Leslie Henson and her two daughters, Rachel and Mary Keeling, from Poplar Bluff. Rachel and Mary were in our youth group back in the early 90’s. What is the chance of that?

Our meal was out of this world! We gave thanks for all our blessings. It was one of our most memorable Thanksgiving celebrations to date.

Our short stay in Williamsburg also allowed us to hook up with our good friend, Archie Wright. Archie is a part of the Jerusalem School and a really good friend. We enjoyed dinner at Outback with him, his friend, Tara, and her son, Taylor.

NYC – A World Within A World

Our east coast destination: New York City. Our next home: Liberty Park, Jersey City, New Jersey. ETA: November 8. Actual time of arrival: November 10. This due to a break down on a Pennsylvania Turnpike, a tow to an Allentown mechanic and two night stay in a hotel while an alternator and belt were replaced. Now, the following truths were reinforced through this unforeseen detour:
1. Brian is the most wonderful provider and protector, handling the myriad of unpleasant details with humor and decency.
2. People are basically nice, kind and helpful.
3. It’s way more fun spending $(enter ridiculous amount here) on a detour in Door County.
4. Bowling is fun.
5. Little boys need to throw footballs and Frisbees, roll down grassy hills, and fly around on scooters and skateboards at least once a day.
6. Little boys can turn a black puddle in a parking lot into a good time.
7. Home is where ever the four of us are.
8. I am SO blessed.

Rolling toward New York city we could see the tall peaks of the Empire State building, the Chrysler building, the void in the skyline which used to boast of Twin Towers and the Statue of Liberty. Liberty Park, located in Jersey City, New Jersey, is where we called home for ten or so days. Out our front window we can see the Statue of Liberty and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. From here NYC looks like a world within a world.

Liberty Harbor RV Park in Jersey City

After supper, in an effort to not waste even one NY mintue, we walked five blocks to the nearest subway (PATH) station and headed for Times Square. Friday night in Times Square – WHAT A ZOO! A very cool zoo, but a zoo nonetheless. Brian and I had been there before but it was a first for Ben and Jack. Whichever boy had my hand, I noticed a tighter grip than usual. Or maybe it was my grip that was tighter, I don’t know. We strolled among the sea of people representing every nation, every race, every language, and did our best to take it all in. We rode in a rick-shaw, saw some stiff, waxy famous actors at Madame Tussaud’s, got sucked into a Toys ‘R Us with a ferris wheel inside and ate some ice-cream before heading back home. A couple of games of Rummikub, which Brian always wins, and the day was spent.

On day two of our NY adventure we drove 50 miles north of NYC to Suffern to spend a couple of days with our good friends, the Notleys. Steve is one of the principal scholars in the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research, an organization which Brian administrates. Sunya is always delightful to be with and Ben and Jack had a ball with their lovely daughter, Kathryn. We all drove up to West Point Military Academy on a blustery Sunday afternoon and toured the Museum, the beautiful Cadet Chapel and Trophy Point which looked over the scenic Hudson River.

Trophy Point at WestPoint Military Academy

We all enjoyed the Notley’s fellowship, stimulating conversation and warm hospitality.

As we made our way back to the city we made plans to have dinner with some friends from a company called Cartoon Pizza. David and Donna Campbell and Jim Jinkins are the geniuses behind excellently crafted and morally directed childrens’ programs like JoJo’s Circus, Stanley, P,B and J Otter, Doug, Hoop Dogs, and Monster Monster Trucks. Their offices are located right down the street from Central Park and across from Lincoln Center. We got to sit in the boardroom where their brilliant ideas come alive. The kids were given autographed Hoop Dogs T-shirts and Pinky Dinky Doo (Step Into Reading Series) Books. We also had the treat of meeting the Campbells’ beautiful and very fun little girls, Reed and Haley. We had dinner at O’Neals, a pre-Lincoln Center hot spot.

Ben, Jack, Haley & Reed at O’Neal’s

The kids hit it off brilliantly and Brian and I felt blessed to be in the company of such nice people, not to mention, inspiring artists. It was a rainy ride back to Jersey City.

Each morning we wake up whenever we wake up and prepare for a new city adventure. Today we planned a visit to the site of the World Trade Center tragedy and a trip to the Museum of Natural History. As the subway slows and snakes its way to the WTC station, you can view the sad, enormous hollow which used to house the towering twin peaks. Life rushes all around as usual because it has to, or stand threatened by evil mens’ blows. That’s just not who “we” are, so men in dusty hard hats work the site, to what end I do not know, but certainly to nurse and heal and triumph. The pictures rounding the square retell the tale, like anyone who witnessed it can forget the ache of September 11, 2001. We didn’t spend too much time there…too many questions welling up in four little innocent eyes.


The boys were skeptical of the name “museum”, but they completely enjoyed the Snakes and Lizards Exhibit and the Butterfly House. Great job on those butterflies, God! The dragon lizards and flying snakes were pretty great too – but not as pleasant up-close as the butterflies by far. The space exhibit was fun. Knowing what you weigh on Haley’s Comet is always helpful, don’t you think? And those dinosaur bones!

Museum of Natural History

Brian disagreed with the all-knowning “suit” inside who said that dinosaurs lived squixty-squillion years ago. Could be around 10,000 years old for all “they” know but the fact is “they” DON’T REALLY know. Average-Joes know so much less than “them” so average-Joes believe whatever “they” tell them to believe. No thanks, I’m not buying it. The museum was great. But dinner was better. Down the street from the museum was exactly what Brian had been hankerin’ all day – New York-style pizza. Ray’s Pizza to be exact and it was awesome. We still had a good part of the evening to fill so we were off to see the movie “Flushed Away.” My review of the movie is that it was the second worst movie I have ever seen…but I’m not 5. That day ended with a long taxi ride to Pier 11 and a water taxi ride across the Hudson River to our “home-sweet-RV”.

Brian had the privilege of attending one of Steve Notley’s classes in Manhattan one afternoon, so the boys and I took a ferry to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Ellis Island was fascinating.

Ellis Island Museum

I explained the gist of the museum to Ben and Jack and let the exhibits and scenes depicted in every room and on every wall tell the bigger story. Jack imagined people going through the process of becoming Americans before “moving to Poplar Bluff Missouri.” Where else? Our rich heritage unfolded before our very eyes.

Before we toured Lady Liberty we enjoyed lunch in the open air of the island. We were joined by a very interesting “guest,” sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi.

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Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and the boys at the Statue of Liberty (or as Jack would say-Liverty)

As we ate, this lovely “Frenchman” treated us to a first-hand, behind-the-scenes account of the creation of this precious monument. We learned SO much from this character…uh, I mean…Mr. Bartholdi. After lunch we hiked as high up into the statue as was allowed. I was expecting a 354 step hike but after 9/11, security deemed the higher heights unsafe. My quads were strangely glad about that. She is as majestic up close as she is greeting the huddled masses from a watery distance. Thanks France! Wish you weren’t so snotty today!… Anyway…

We filled a bag with souvenirs and returned home on the ferry, anxious to see daddy. And as if that weren’t enough fun for one day, Ted Brackett, Brian’s cousin, and his lovely wife, Penelope, invited us to their home in New Jersey for dinner. We all had the greatest time enjoying a delicious dinner and lots of laughs.

Jack, Coulton, Ben and Kaz

Their children Kazden, Lily and Coulton, made the evening even more memorable for Ben and Jack. The only downfall of the evening; getting lost numerous times on the NJ highway system. What’s up with that?

On our very last day in NYC, we trekked into the mad mecca for one last escapade. Now, this city life-style is not for everyone – namely Jackson Becker. He has grown weary of the walking, the wild taxi rides, the schedule we’ve been keeping. He has a great time when we get where we are going, and you’d think he’d trust us by now but… This morning as we were leaving for The Paper Bag Players’ production of Dandelion, he sang, almost in a chant, “I’m going to have a good time today- I don’t want to go but – I’m going to have a good time today.” WHAT FAITH! Go baby go! This mantra served him well as the NYC finale was a busy one. We attended the play, Dandelion, held at a public school. Ted, Brian’s cousin, is a long-time member of the legendary theatre group, the Paper Bag Players. The cast consists of four adults and one musician performing original musical theatre for kids. All props, costumes, stage sets are made out of paper! We had a blast! Next we taxied to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Once again, the name met with groans and moans yet we had a fabulous time viewing the Egyptian Exhibit, which followed along with some history Ben and I had been learning about, and the Armor, Sword and Gun Exhibit. That is not what it’s really called but that’s what we saw and it was very cool. Upon leaving the Met, we fortuitously came upon a park where the boys could run and jump and climb and swing.


Whew! Couldn’t rip and tear like that in the Met. Jack’s faith at work! One more wild taxi ride took us to the building where Reed and Haley, the two little girls we’d met earlier in the week lived. Ben and Jack were beside themselves with excitement to get to spend more time with them. We picked them up, subway-ed to Times Square, ate dinner and went to the movie Santa Claus 3: The Escape Claus. Now that’s a great movie (and I’m not even 5)! The girls’ parents, Dave and Donna, met us out front, in a van, saving us (temporarily) from a walk in the pouring rain, and dropped us off at our subway stop. Two more precious bonds of friendship tucked warmly into the hearts of my little boys. Thank you, God.

The final five block walk back to the RV from the PATH station was…dramatic. The wind was about to turn Jack into a kite and the rain pelting our faces had Ben shouting, “OW, OW, OW…!” The wind velocity made even my footsteps heavy and deliberate. But at last, we made it safely home.

Breakdown #1: Pennsylvania Turnpike near Allentown

Well, it was bound to happen sometime. We were cruising along and the boys in the back said, “I smell something burning.” About that time, the warning lights came on as well…including the “STOP ENGINE NOW” light…which is never a good thing. After taking the engine cover off, it was discovered that the belt was thrown off. Not the average belt…this one was over five feet long.

We came to find out that the alternator had seized up and caused the belt to break. With our warranty and road hazard insurance (both together cost a total of $1200 for the first year and $70 for additional years) we covered two nights lodging at the hotel, two dinners, a new alternator, a new belt, labor, and a 15 mile semi-truck tow (which included an hour of roadside labor as they “dropped the axle”) all for $250.

On the third day, we were back on the road with less than two hours drive to NYC. What a blessing!

Touching Base With The Familiar

The boys have been counting the days until they get to see the cousins and Grams and Papa back home. It is time to touch base again with the familiar. We parked the RV at Bob’s old house on the farm in Williamsville. The big front windows of the coach look out over a farm field with horses grazing in the distance. It is particularly pretty in the morning when clouds rest along the grass. Fall, a season I hate to miss, is in full glory and the foliage is most impressive on this beautiful piece of land.

The ten or so days here got quite busy as there was much catching up to do with all of our friends. Jack and Ben ate up their time with Coulton, Andrea and Kaylin. They spent time at Grams and Papa’s house. We were able to fill our tanks with the company of many good friends, (Myers, the other Myers, Hudsons, Rhenda, Cheyenne & Chelsea, Grandma Mazie & Grandpa Howard, Osborns, Kim & Logan, a very pregnant Tanya, Laseters, RuthAnn Brickell) but didn’t get to see EVERYONE we would have liked in the time that we had. Halloween provided an opportunity to see lots of friends. Ben was a very believable Jack Sparrow, complete with a moustache and beard that his dad GLUED to his little face. I mean industrial style glue! Jack was a red Ninja for the afternoon parade in Williamsville but changed to a blue Ninja for the evening festivities. We trick-or-treated in the old neighborhood with Coulton, Cheyanne and Chelsea before spending the rest of the evening at First Baptist’s Fall Festival . There were LOTS of old friends to catch up with there. Ben got to see his friends from kindergarten and first grade at O’Neal; Savannah, Hunter, Kaitlyn, Elizabeth, Grace, Jantzen – to name a few!

Grace, Nathalie, Hunter, Ben, Kaitlyn, Savannah: former school mates of Ben’s

Cheyanne, Tanya, Coulton, Brianna, Jack, Ben & Chelsea

Corin, Jack, Kyle, Logan

Jack had a very special opportunity one day to spend an afternoon in Mrs. Renee’s class, where he got to hang with several kids he knew from pre-school. What a nice invitation that was! Jack thoroughly enjoyed it.


Ben had the pleasure of being in Renee Lovelace’s class and enjoyed her very much. We feel so blessed to have had our kids under the wings of such fine teachers as Renee, Betty Doherty and Christi Todd at First Baptist Pre-school and Kindergarten. They really gave me much to aspire to when I made the decision to become my boys’ teacher.

One of the last details to see to before leaving Williamsville was voting absentee. And vote – we did. Would that our two little ballots could have turned the tide at least in our home state, but it would not be so. Mid-term elections rendered the SPANK heard around the world. Brian and I extend our deepest, heartfelt congratulations to our Democrat family members and friends from coast to coast. Brian and I humbly concede. America has spoken! No gloating, Ned!

Before leaving the state we spent a long weekend in St. Louis. We attended a Mercy Me/Audio Adrenaline concert in St. Charles, thanks to our buddy, Scott Brickell. Kory, Dawn and Kyle Myers joined us from Poplar Bluff for a very uplifting evening. We went to one of our favorite churches in the city called Grace Church. Actually, because we’ve gotten lost and been late every single time we’ve ever visited there, we decided to sleep in their parking lot! No excuse now! And it sort of worked. We were not…too…late…but we weren’t early either. What’s with that? We were joined for Sunday lunch by Theresa Smith (Luecke) and her lovely daughter, Caroline. After lunch we went to the movie “Open Season.” It was so nice spending the afternoon together. When we returned to the RV to move to another sleeping spot, the security guard at Grace graciously suggested we stay the night so he could make sure we were safe. God’s hand is always upon us everywhere we go! On Monday, we got to see Aunt Dianne, who had just returned from Russia. Now if you think we’re on an adventure, talk to this fun lady. She lives one of the most adventurous lives of anyone we know.

East coast – here we come!