This part of the book is pure fluff, but I love it because of the interaction between Joel, Richard, Tom, and their mother. This is Christmas at the Larsons. I do want to post another story excerpt that shows a light moment between Joel and April as they start to get along, but the scene with Joel and his brothers happen before the one between Joel and April so I’m doing this first.
This scene is where Joel is bringing the Christmas gifts to his parents’ house. (April and Sep are already in the house, so Joel’s by himself.) Joel is getting up to the porch.
As he trudged up the porch steps, Tom and Richard came out the front door. Joel paused, his foot on the next step, and debated whether he wanted to proceed or not. They were bound to give him grief. Since the gifts in his arms were getting heavy, he sighed and stepped forward.
“I can’t believe it,” Richard said. “Joel got himself married after all.”
Tom snickered and nudged Richard in the arm. “Too bad you weren’t there. He cried.”
Joel’s face warmed and he snapped, “I didn’t cry.”
Richard’s eyes grew wide. “Someone’s a little touchy.”
“Someone needs to put these gifts under the tree,” Joel growled, making a move to pass them.
Tom jumped in front of the door and held his arms out. “I’ll help.”
“No thank you. You’ve done more than enough to help out,” Joel said, refusing to let Tom grab the gifts. “Get out of my way or I’m calling for Dave or…” He almost said Rick, but Rick had been a part of the marriage so he couldn’t be trusted.
“Or who, Joel?” Tom asked, mirth in his eyes. “You’ll call out for Ma to make us go away like you did when we were younger?”
“No!” Joel shifted the gifts to help distribute the weight. “Look, do you want me to dump all of these out there? Your wives won’t be happy if their gifts are ruined.”
“The only person you buy gifts for is Ma,” Richard began, “and she thinks anything you give her, no matter how poorly thought out, is the best gift she’s ever received.”
Tom laughed. Using a high-pitched voice, he said, “Oh Joel! How thoughtful of you to give me this pocket knife. It’s just what I wanted.”
“I can’t believe you, Tom. A pocket knife is practical. She can use it for many things.”
“If you’re a man, it’s practical. What is a woman going to do with a pocket knife?”
Joel shrugged. “I don’t know. Ma can do the same stuff that Pa does.”
“Your problem is that you don’t understand women.”
“You got that right. I’ll never know why Jessica married you.”
Just as Tom was ready to protest, someone shooed him aside. Their mother pushed past him and ran over to Joel. She cupped Joel’s face in her hands and smiled. “My baby boy is all grown up. It seems just like yesterday, I gave birth to you, and here you are a married man. Where did the time go?”
Since her back was to them, Tom and Richard pressed their hands to their hearts and mouthed “my baby boy”. Joel hated big brothers. They were nothing but trouble.
“April is such a lovely young woman,” their mother continued. “Tom told me all about how you married her because she reminds you of me. It’s so nice of you to say that you wanted someone as sweet as your mother to be your wife.”
Joel clenched his teeth and glared at Tom and Richard who bent their heads together and chuckled softly into their hands.
Their mother kissed Joel’s cheek. “My baby boy is all grown up and has his own family now. Why, just think of it. April could be bringing out two children next Christmas instead of one!”
Joel blanched. “Isn’t it enough that Mary’s going to give you another grandchild in February?” It was ridiculous that the woman couldn’t be satisfied with eleven grandchildren and one on the way. Actually, since he married April, she technically had twelve already. Then in February, she’d have thirteen. Inspired, he said, “Unless, of course, Mary doesn’t have a boy. You could probably use another grandson, especially since Tom couldn’t seem to do the job.”
His ploy worked. Tom stopped snickering and crossed his arms in defiance. “I’ll have you know I’m very happy to have four daughters.”
“I suppose that’s the only way you don’t feel like a woman when you ride in that pink buggy your wife bought right after you got married,” Joel replied.
“There’s nothing wrong with the color pink,” Tom argued. “The girls love it.”
Their mother groaned. “Must you boys fuss? Seriously, you’re all grown up with families of your own, and you’re acting like you were still children. Now, it’s time for you to be an example and be nice.”
“Well said, Ma,” Richard agreed.
“That’s my boy,” their mother replied, going over to Richard. “You had enough sense not to get caught in their squabbles. Now, come on in so we can set those gifts down, Joel.”
“Here. I’ll get the door for you, Ma,” Richard said, giving Joel and Tom a smug look.
“Thank you, Richard,” she replied and headed into the house.
Tom shook his head. “Unbelievable.”
“You’re telling me,” Joel told Tom.
“Your problem is that I’ve always been smart enough to get on her good side,” Richard teased. “Why do you think she’d let me sneak in a cookie before supper?”
“You got what before supper?” Tom asked.
With an amused smile, Richard went into the house.
“You know, if he didn’t come in handy when it was time to build something, I’d kick him clear back to New York,” Tom said.
“If both of us did it at the same time, it might actually work,” Joel agreed.
Tom opened the door for Joel, and Joel reluctantly went into the house, wondering what other ribbing he was going to get now that he was married.