“Was that your friend Bill Shakespeare?” my youngest son, Alex, then six, asks after my husband, Steve, hangs up the phone.
If that seems like a crazy question from a child, it was par for the course in my household, because it was words that wooed me, words that won me, and words that keep us – the entire family – in thrall.
From the very beginning, in fact.
My parents made Aliyah when I was 15. We were living in Be’er Sheva. When I was 17, Steve met my brother Matt in a used bookstore, where they would both drool over the comic books I swear the owner stocked just for them. Eager to share his obsession, Matt brought Steve home.
The way Steve looked at me that first day made me wonder – was he the one? (He was.) There was a certain twinkle in his eye (he still has that) and a definite thrill when we shook hands. If his passion for words stopped at comic books, of course, that thought would have dissipated quickly. But in checking out our bookshelves, Steve took down a well-worn, much-beloved poetry anthology. We spent hours reading our favorite poems to one another. Sound sappy? Not to us. (Matt was around for a while. And then, conveniently, not.)
Steve had come to Israel first as a kibbutz volunteer. At 24, he was production manager in the Be’er Sheva Theatre. It just so happened that a Hebrew version of Romeo & Juliet was playing there. I watched the play a dozen times up in the light booth. Later, it was Midsummer Night’s Dream at Habima, Israel’s National Theatre. Shakespeare was important to us both.
When I went into the IDF, Steve returned to the States. We stayed connected through airmail – this was long before email. I would blush to read out some of those letters today. After about a year and a half of written words, Steve returned to Israel mid-way through my army service.
Married and living in the States, we surrounded our two boys with words. “Read da book,” one of them would demand, plopping down on a diapered rear end, tossing a board book into our laps. We never refused. Later, we created a dinner time ritual of sharing poetry and stories before the meal – our own brand of grace.
Shakespeare’s sonnets and speeches were part of the mix early on. Steve was clear that “Bill” was a dear family friend. Hence Alex’s question about the phone call; who else would his dad call Bill?
Steve and I both love Sonnet #116, “Let me not to the marriage of true minds/Admit impediments…” Our shared love of words was what made us truly beshert.
Michelle and Steven Cameron live in Chatham, NJ, where Steve is a professor of Communication and Media Studies at Caldwell University and Michelle is co-owner of The Writers Circle, a NJ-based creative writing program. She has authored two novels; a third, Beyond the Ghetto Gates, will be out in April. The Camerons will celebrate 40 years of marriage in September. They have two grown sons, Geoff and Alex.