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A view from BB Camp
photo by Rhonda Spivak

My son Dov in the blue life jacket with friends
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Danny and Cara Stoller where the lighthouse is to be rebuilt
photo by Rhonda Spivak

The BB camp dock
photo by Rhonda Spivak



by Rhonda Spivak, September 2, 2014









On August 18th this summer I went to B'nai Brith Camp to see the Advanced Camp [AC] Homecoming ceremony.




My son Dov, had turned 15 while he was on the AC program during which time he and his buddies spent four weeks canoeing, portaging and camping on various islands in the Lake of the Woods. While he was away on AC, I had a milestone birthday and turned 50.






Visiting the BB campsite unlocked a flood of memories for me since this was the first time that I had stepped foot on the site since 1977, some 37 years ago--in what seemed like a lifetime ago in fact. I had gone to BB camp for three summers (1975-1977), and after I went to Camp Massad for Ma'alit and Mechinah and became a counselor there. 







As we passed devil's rock on the boat ride to BB camp, I had a fleeting memory of canoeing by there, and then later of someone trying to teach me how to do a J stroke with the paddle-- I am not sure I ever really mastered that one. As we approached the main dock of the camp, I realized the natural landscape of the BB campsite was as beautiful and pristine as I had remembered-it was virtually unchanged, and timeless, with the sounds of the wind rustling through the leaves and birds chirping.








I began having memories of cookouts and bonfires and when I walked to the "Oolam", I didn't remember its shape or its high ceilings but its door seemed familiar to me. I had a sudden recollection of going there for morning prayers (forgive me if my memory has deceived me and I am wrong about this).








I have no memory of the BB Camp Chadar Ochel, which is rather strange since I assume I ate there for most meals. 







When I came to the swimming area on the BB site I remembered taking swimming lessons and doing laps in the morning, where the water was cold (some would say refreshing, but I remember it as cold). The BB swim program was very different than Massad's as I remember it. I have very few memories of swimming in Lake Winnipeg on the beach at Camp Massad (these were the days before there was a pool on site). Instead my memories are of getting dressed in a bathing suit, going down to the beach, and sitting on a towel reading letters or chatting. Actually going into the water was rather a novelty.





Standing on the dock, I remembered when I fell in 1977 on the dock and somehow got part of a nail in my foot and had to go to Kenora hospital to get stitches and antibiotics as the area subsequently got infected. My cabin mates and counselors got me a blue t-shirt with white letters that said "WATCH YOUR STEP SPIV." When I got to Camp Massad and wore the t-shirt, my Massad friends would refer to the t-shirt as my "STEP ON SPIV" shirt.  I kept the shirt for years and years, long after I had outgrown it.




Standing near the location of the lighthouse that is to be rebuilt on the BB site I thought about how quickly time had marched on, how my two children had grown so rapidly even though I can remember them running around as toddlers in their diapers on Maple Beach in Winnipeg Beach as if it were yesterday. The days seemed so long and full when we had whiled away hours building and re-building sandcastles, finding sea shells, and pulling the kids in a blown up dingy, or an alligator blow-up toy. Those were the days when the children never wanted to be away from me for any stretch of time, days that I never fully appreciated how fast would pass. 




Those were days when we had all spent time playing with our dog Shmoo, who made it to the ripe old age of 16. But Shmoo died this past February, my husband having put her down when I was away, knowing that I couldn't bear to see it happen.  Out of the two of us, my husband had been the one at the time who had wanted to get a dog the most, and sure enough it was me who in the end had been the one who became most attached to Shmoo.  Afterall, she (Shmoo was a female) was with me every day for the 10 years that I had stayed home raising the kids.   When I returned home from Israel this summer, I expected Shmoo to be there panting at the door, until I suddenly remembered she was gone.  




As we waited as my son's AC group canoed to the dock, my eyes gazed at my son. In the four weeks that he had gone to BB camp he had shot up another inch or so, to the point where he, at six feet and one and a half inches is now taller than my husband. He returned lean and tanned with more muscle than before...and had to bend down to hug me.



We watched as the AC groups sang the songs they had composed, and then came to look at the paddles that they had decorated.



It was a lovely ceremony and rite of passage




I meandered around the campsite by myself for a few minutes, taking it all in after 37 years.  


And again for a moment, just a moment, I paused, looked out onto the lake and marveled at how quickly the time had passed.


Postscript: Brenda Tessler has now explained to me that the  The Chadar Ochel  I saw at  BB Camp now was constructed in 1982 – the former one had collapsed in May 7, ’77 due to snow overload (a similar scenario to losing the Olam Katan this past spring).  The Camp constructed a “bubble like structure” on the former Chadar site and campers and staff ate in this building from ’77 – 81.  That’s why I probably don’t have any memories of this building.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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