One of my early recollections is when my parents, George (Hap) and Betty Donner gave me a special baby doll named Becky. Becky was the size of a two-to-four-month-old baby. Becky had blue eyes with long eyelashes that closed when I laid her down. Here body was soft and stuffed with cotton. She had wooden fiber arms, legs and head. When she was in the lying position, she would cry out, “Mama!” Becky was everything a little four-year-old girl could ever want!
Becky had several pieces of clothing in her hand-sewn wardrobe – a dress with pantaloons, socks with shoes and a sheer-like bonnet that matched her dress. When the weather turned cold, I dressed Becky in a wool jacket with a bunny-fur collar and a matching red wool bonnet with white bunny-fur trim. To complete her winter attire, she had a fluffy bunny-fur muff and warm leggings. Becky was so cute and I loved her dearly. She was my constant companion and playmate. I carried her everywhere on my back, just like the African children carried their little siblings.
I learned later that Becky had been given to my parents as a gift for their first-born daughter from a kind lady from my dad’s church congregation before they sailed for Africa. All her clothes had been hand-sewn by this dear family friend. When the time came for my family to depart for Tanganyika Territory, my beloved dolly Becky was packed in a crate, which would accompany us on the ship. Travel space was tight with women and children on one deck and men and older boys holed up on another level. Family times were limited to meal times and special events planned on the ship’s deck.
Our ‘carry-on’ luggage was restricted to clothing and simple toiletries for our long boat ride across the Atlantic Ocean. For two long months my sweet Becky and I were separated. When we finally arrived in Katungulu, our final destination in Tanganyika, my parents unpacked the crate and the metal drums and Becky and I were finally reunited. Becky brought me such joy and no dolly since then was loved quite the same.
Sadly, when changing mission stations, Becky had to be packed away again into a crate. As the heavy crate was being off-loaded from the lake boat, the corner of the crate was dropped in the water and it got wet. Dear Becky’s head was water damaged and when we opened the crate later, we found she was beyond repair. My parents promised to replace her with another doll when we returned to America some time later.
I still remember vividly watching my beloved Becky burning up on the trash heap. My young, hurting heart never quite recovered. We learned later that a new head could have been purchased to repair my baby doll. My parents did buy me several other dolls later, but none of them could ever replace the love and attachment I had for Becky. My parents felt badly, but they didn’t fully understand how important Becky was to me.
Then quite unexpectedly in 2001 my younger sister Natalie presented me with another Becky! When I was home in the US for a furlough from Kenya where I served as a missionary with my husband John Barnett, my sister did some research on the internet and found the doll on e-bay and bought it for me. Natalie also still had the little red wool jacket and hat from my original Becky! What a special gift that was! Becky now resides in Pennsylvania and is waiting for me to join her when I retire to the USA in July 2013.