She took the last of the cookies from the oven and set the baking sheet on top of the stove. On each cookie she sprinkled red or green sugar, alternating the colors evenly, and pressed the granules down with her fingers. She washed the sticky residue from her hands and, from the window above the sink, looked out at the dark street, how it was punctuated with flickering white lights that moved with the wind.
Every light on the main floor was on. Cliff held his iPod and sang loudly, the lyrics indistinct to her ears so that the song he was listening to was unidentifiable. Max sat on the couch watching the Patriots play, with a bottle of Sam Adams in his hand.
“Cliff! Too loud!” he shouted.
Her husband entered the kitchen and hugged her close. “Smells good.” He pulled away, smacking her rear.
“Hey!” She rolled her eyes at him.
Cliff had gone quiet, draping himself over the back of the couch. His eyes were partially closed, one hand tapping the side of his headphones.
Her husband called to her. “Looks like he’s almost ready for bed. Want me to take him up?”
Their daughter rushed down the stairs, her curls falling delicately around her face. She wore sweats and a t-shirt, and held a thick textbook against her chest. “Wait! We still have to bring Cliff outside to feed the reindeer.”
Her mother pointed to the family room and Olivia went to sit next to her big brother. He roused himself and smiled broadly at her, “O-vilia!”
She pretended to tickle him and he giggled, jumping up to sit next to Max on the couch on the other side of the room. “Brudder boy”, he said.
“Hey, Cliffy, do you know what it’s time for?” Cliff leaned into him, and Max put his muscled arm around his shoulder.
She called them into the kitchen and handed each of them a plastic baggie filled with a mix of Quaker Oats and red glitter.
Her three children pulled on their boots and coats, and stepped gingerly down the icy steps holding their big brother’s hands. She and her husband wiped the frost off the glass, and watched them toss small handfuls of reindeer food over the snowy lawn. Some of it reached far into the yard, and some, thrown awkwardly from Cliff’s grasp, landed at their feet and on their coats.
The baggies empty, the three of them stood huddled together, looking up at the multitude of stars in the sky.
They took their brother’s hands again, and turned to lead him back up the front steps, their hair sparkling with red glitter.