The characters are hard to read on this tiny label my Mother wrote and put under the seat of a dining room chair: the date 30 years ago she reupholstered the seat, a New Year’s resolution completed, perhaps. The chairs were made for her father almost a century ago, and she cherished them in her time. They have seen thousands of meals, they’ve been used by four generations, and they’ve travelled the world, from blitz-torn London to post-war Edinburgh, and now to Vancouver in a new century. She’s left me a reminder: it’s time to reupholster the chairs again. My Mother’s long gone, but her work remains; she is still the ghost in the machine of household tasks, those small renewals and re-orderings that sustain us, leave us free for the vast and dirty business of living.

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