She had tears in her eyes, fat drops of saline that threatened to overflow in a river down her cheeks. “I can’t help it. I’m so happy, I’m scared I’ll never be this happy again.” He held on to her and smiled from his inside out. She said the same thing every time she was overwhelmed by the joy in their lives. The way she looked at him when she said it made him feel solely responsible for procuring more happiness just for her.
They’d been married for five years. He’d worked hard with Foster IV, as an architect when they had call for it, swinging a hammer when they didn’t. The old man made no bones about the pecking order when he worked with the carpenters. Foster Shaw was noted for skilled carpentry and fine finish work. Hank was not a supervisor or a foreman, on job sites where he swung a hammer. He was subordinate to the craftsmen and as such was expected to do all the grunt labor. He didn’t mind. He earned the respect of the finish carpenters. He made it plain that he wanted to learn more so he could build a house for Marion, a house where babies might join them.
Marion took classes at community college. She didn’t earn a degree; she couldn’t seem to sit still long enough. Her interests were in the natural world. She didn’t have the patience required to sit in a classroom to learn how to join her love of the outdoors with academic applications. She was happy working in greenhouses, at landscaping, and at one point climbing trees as an aspiring arborist. She used her money to buy things for the apartment they rented and for “someday when we have a house.” She put spare change in a jar that she deposited in her “land account” when it got full. He got a big kick out of that. She wasn’t saving for land for them to build a house on; they already had that. She was saving “the trees and the fields and the birds and butterflies from being turned into subdivisions and sameness.” She was a conservationist before it was popular.
They were lucky. Their friends were in similar financial situations. Over the course of one long winter weekend spent eating spaghetti, playing cards, and drinking beer, they decided in the spring they would all get serious about moving into houses. Some were building from scratch, others were remodeling or, in one case, resurrecting a house that could have been condemned. They resolved to spend weekends on each others’ homes until all of them were moved in. They worked from the first day of spring that year until just shy of spring the following year.
The babies, first Elliot then not much later Addison, arrived just after they turned the key in the lock on their house. Through both pregnancies Marion cried, always scared she’d “never be this happy again.”