Hunk admiring the fish in a large seawater tank at the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester.
We visited there on Spring Break on Becky’s advice.
Because Watertown and Fort Drum can be such a tough place to get to know, I thought I’d leave it to my amazing friends – local, military, young, and – ahem – more mature – to let you in on the hard-fought wisdom they’ve earned about the good and the bad – and everything in between.
Becky has lived in Watertown for six years. She and her husband, Kyle, have two children – a six-year-old son, born during an assignment in Germany – and a 10-month-old daughter, born here in Watertown.
Becky and Kyle both grew up in Batavia, NY, and after Kyle joined the Army shortly after 9/11, they were stationed in Germany. Kyle has been deployed four times, each time for between six and fifteen months. and has attended three specialized military training schools, each between six and ten weeks.
Much of what Becky has learned about living in northern New York, she’s figured out from friends, FRG emails, Facebook and a sense of adventure. Becky’s outgoing, curious, brilliant and, by her own description, “a little A.D.D.” She agreed to a little Q&A with me and was kind enough to share some of the things she’s learned about going through deployments while raising a small, very active child in Watertown for the past six years.
Me: Tell me about your first year in Watertown
Becky: When we first moved here, there was nothing going on. We didn’t have four-wheel drive, it was November in that winter where you drove up, like, a tunnel down 81, there was so much snow. 2008. It was the worst winter. People still talk about it now. It was terrible.
So, I discovered an indoor playground on Fort Drum that was open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. til noon and I would just take (my son) “B” there every day, Monday through Friday. He would run himself silly, we’d come home, he’d take a nap and we just had a party til he went to sleep. Everyday.
Then I started meeting a few people. One of the first people I ended up meeting introduced me to a local MOMS Club. Her husband was deployed too. She’d had a c-section and came home all by herself. The first time I met her, she was trying to get her infant carrier out of her car, so I helped her carry it in. She’d obviously just had a baby and her two-year-old needed to get out of the house. Our two boys were the same age and we just kind of hit it off.
After she introduced me to MOMS Club, it was a beautiful thing. I went to almost every single event and that’s how I got to know what was going on. I found out all the things about the north country through people in MOMS Club.
I love it here, but it was probably a year before I really figured out that there were so many amazing things here. And I love it. But the first year was tough.
Me: What’s your neighborhood like?
Becky: We live off State St, in a little neighborhood that is predominantly military. Most homes are owned by military people who have moved off and now rent their homes.
My neighbors are retired military and are so awesome. They showed me around a little too. That first summer we were here, they would take us up to Alex Bay. They showed us Clayton one time.
We needed a car because my husband was coming home and he would only have 24 hours off before having to report back, so my neighbor would test drive a car, bring it over to the house and see if I liked it. If I didn’t, he’d go back and get a different one. Everything short of me having to go in to sign the papers with my kicking and screaming two-year-old under one arm, he had lined up for me. I just came in, signed the papers with the wrong hand, they gave me the keys and I left.
Our school – Knickerbocker – is amazing. I love the principal, the secretary, I love “B”’s teacher. I love the feel of the school, the moms waiting at pick up. There’s not much I don’t like. There’s tons of family things at Knickerbocker. Tons of things to bring families into the school. The PTO is active. It does enormous fundraisers. You name it and they’ve paid for it in the school.
I love being able to put my daughter in the stroller and just walk around. Our street is safe and friendly and there’s certain people on our block who come out and say hi – they know my kids’ names, we know their dogs names. There’s one lady who’s known my son since we got here when he was eleven months old. Same lady outside with her same flowers. It’s great just to be able to put our daughter in the stroller and walk away, and feel comfortable. It’s a bit like where I grew up – a small town, with better stores.
Me: Is there anything in particular you love about northern New York?
Becky: I love the climate and that there’s different things to do within different seasons. I feel like when I get bored with something, then okay, it’s a different season. There’s all these different activities to do within certain seasons. There’s so many festivals and things to do that are free.
When we first went to the Maple Weekend – that was something I found out about through the FRG – we drove to some 10-million-miles-away stick-in-the-woods-place last year that made maple cotton candy and our son got to walk right up to a tree and see the sap coming right out. It was awesome.
I’ve always taken my son to the Lowe’s Workshops. But we’ve missed the last two weeks because they were full. Well, they called us yesterday to ask us if everything was okay. She said they’d saved a kit for us from each of the workshops we’d missed. And just the other day I told a lady at one of the local retail shops I go to all the time that I needed shoes in certain sizes for my daughter. Well, she called me and told me a whole new batch had come in and even saved them for me until I could look through them!
That’s small-town America. I love it.
Me: What do you do away from home?
Becky: One of the first things I did when we moved here was get a membership to the Zoo. We also love the Black River Trail, the Cider Mill in the fall, we like Behling’s in the fall. We used to go to Old McDonald’s Farm a lot, but they’ve raised their prices so much we can’t go much anymore. They used to have a season pass, but people started taking advantage of them and bringing way more people than were allowed so they had to take it away.
Me: Do you have any favorite local restaurants?
Becky: For dinner, we love Art’s Jug. For pizza, we go to Bernardo’s Pizza. Maggie’s for lunch – their burgers are handmade. My husband gives them like a 25 out of 10. We got to Great Wall for Chinese food. They hand-make everything and you can stand there and watch them prepare each order.