I caught my dog gnawing on the landlord’s fig tree. I shooed him away but it was too late: he’d broken off a branch.

At the funeral, my mother's body lay in a plain pine box. During the service my eyes traced the whorls in the wood grain. My hand lay on a smoothly sanded corner of the coffin as we took her to the hearse. The wood is not sealed – it will decompose quickly and her body will follow.

My wife and I were trying to figure out if the floor was hardwood or just a vinyl faux finish. We had to get down on our hands and knees and peer at the edge where the flooring began. It was fake.

When we moved in, we found phone numbers scrawled on the inner face of a closet door. We pulled up the living room carpet to discover plywood subflooring with penciled messages from children now grown.

I try to explain to my toddler how trees grow. The sun shines, the rain falls, all this feeds the trees and they get bigger. He squints in the morning light, I can see the warmth of his cheek.