The Winter Coat

"It's snowing," said the mother, standing in the white-painted kitchen doorway with folded arms and pursed lips. "Are you sure you want to go out in that coat?"

The daughter looked at her mother, then back at the bright red nylon windbreaker she had been wearing all autumn. She sighed, but moved toward the closet all the same. Her mother was quicker, reaching into the jumble of coats, vests, umbrellas and scarves to ease out the daughter's winter coat with uncanny smoothness and speed.

The coat was knee-length, puffy and beige, with fake fur lining the hood and sweat stains around the cuffs and collar, which the daughter had forgotten about, but at which the mother rolled her eyes and said: "I'll have to get this dry-cleaned."

The mother held out the coat like a valet. The daughter suppressed a grimace and put her arms into the coat, then stood still and endured as her mother yanked up the zipper, arranged the hood until it lay symmetrically on her shoulders, fastened the velcro on the cuffs so tightly they cut into her wrists, and brushed an imaginary dust particle off the front.

"Don't make that face," said the mother. "I'm only trying to help."

The daughter put on an apologetic smile and donned her hat and mittens – beige wool, the former with ear flaps, tassels and a bobble on top – without being asked.

"Bye, Mom."

She put on boots, shouldered her schoolbag and trudged out the door. Once the house was out of sight, she loosened the cuffs of her coat, stuffed the woolly hat into her pocket, and let her hair blow back in a swirl of little floating snowflakes.