Love Grows in Asheville

by Teddy Bourgeois

Greetings from Asheville, North Carolina, where I became a father on March 13th.

My twin daughters were born 10 weeks premature. My wife, Sarah Myers, and I received signals during the pregnancy that they might come early, but we were still caught off guard.

Fatherhood is an odd mantle to take up in these times. Covid-19 has all but shut down the restaurant industry, my second home. And it has split our family. My little girls remain in the hospital. Like other dads and restaurant workers alike, I feel helpless, facing down the struggles of so many. Despite my fear, these small bundles of love give me hope.

The author holding his newborn twin daughters.

Years ago, heavy rains caused a levee failure near my neighborhood outside Boston. Eight inches of water flooded the bar where I worked. We still opened at seven that evening. This time, our bucket brigades and bilge pumps are outmatched. The bar is underwater and we all have retreated home to stay dry. I don’t know when our Chai Pani family of restaurants will reopen.

For now, our girls live in the Mission Hospital neonatal intensive care unit, one of the safest and cleanest places possible. That is a comfort. Most of their needs require highly skilled attention. I have time to stare at them and think. I want to share them with all the other people I love, but that has to wait. We all have to wait now.

Nurseries are like restaurants. They are places of joy, celebration, commiseration, and memory. Love grows in these places.

I started writing to shine hope and light, but let’s be honest, this is shitty. Looking at our children for the first time was the closest I’ve come to touching God. Two days later, when Sarah was discharged from the hospital, we went home without them and put together cribs in a nursery they won’t see for months.

Here’s one of the things I’ve realized, while staring at them and thinking: Nurseries are like restaurants. They are places of joy, celebration, commiseration, and memory. Love grows in these places.

Teddy Bourgeois. Photo by Lauren Van Epps/Chai Pani Restaurant Group.

I grieve for the homecoming we planned. Sarah and I had talked often about what the first two weeks home could look like for the twins. We imagined the exhaustion, how we would introduce them to the dogs, and how perfect it could be to bring babies home as spring arrives and the world turns green.

I mourn for my industry. And I worry about my friends. To see restaurants go empty and friends go jobless is a gut punch. Spring is usually when restaurant patios reopen, when, together, we shake off the winter. Instead, we fret about how to pay our rent. Sarah works in a restaurant, too. She was furloughed last week. Almost overnight, our family doubled and our income decreased by half. Our world will be different on the other side of this.

This virus challenges the promise of restaurants to bring people together, to build intimacy and community. The births of our daughters remind us that the promise endures. I live apart from my girls for now, just as I work apart from my restaurant colleagues. But in this struggle, we all walk together.

We’re not sad people. We are people experiencing sadness. We are not small. We are growing bigger. Just like my babies.

Teddy Bourgeois is the Hospitality Manager at Chai Pani Restaurant Group in Asheville, North Carolina.