Dear BFFs — Birchwood friends and family,
We are CLOSED for Summer vacation!
There's a long and a short answer to the question "But why would you close during the height of patio season — also known as Summer — when your business has been decimated by Covid19 and you’ve already suffered great financial loss and why haven't you opened to indoor dining yet?" Given that I’m on vacation, and I promised my daughter more face time and less facebook, I'll spare you the former and skip to the latter; it's been a hella challenging fifteen months and all of us still standing at Birchwood Cafe; those who choose love over fear, those who believe that going "back to normal" is not an option because normal sucked for too many, those who know that change is inevitable and transformation is hard work and those of us who know that none of us are free until we are all free; we are taking a collective pause.
Last November, after eight months of too much crisis mode, too much stress, too much pivoting and too many times being forced to weigh staff and guest safety with the cafe's viability and therefore my ability to provide a safe and loving home for Lily, I fell into a major depression. Though I did seek professional help, I had to wait over four months to see a psychiatrist even though I had a good health insurance plan. Thankfully, on March 2nd, I zoomed with a wonder doctor who prescribed me some anti depressant and anti anxiety medications and referred me to a group therapy program; three hours a day for three days a week for 12 weeks and it has been the some of the most enlightening and enriching and life affirming 108 hours of my life.
One of the crucial things I learned in group therapy — a life saving life line consisting of six amazingly brave strong smart beautiful women all choosing love over fear and learning together and supporting each other to live our best lives with anxiety and depression and one fantastic therapist who got me and got my racial justice mindset even through my observation is that the program frame was created though a lens of oppression, conformity and whiteness —is that you can build real authentic relationships over zoom and the importance of self care.
I have also acquired new vocabulary and life skills that I don't know how I survived these past 55 years without.
Vacation — /vāˈkāSH(ə)n,vəˈkāSH(ə)n/
an extended period of leisure.
Leisure — /ˈlēZHər,ˈleZHər/
freedom provided by the cessation of activities; especially time free from work and responsibility.
And the biggest life lesson of all is knowing that when my fear of losing the cafe, my identity and my house due to Covid19 spiraled downward to bankruptcy and homelessness, and not being able to get a job because I'm worthless and have no skills and I'll have to live under the Franklin bridge all alone because Lily's dad would take her way from me and my friends were disgusted by me, spiraling further downward into the dark depths of despair that is depression, by a diseased mind that catastrophe'd this all into incessant ideation of jumping off that same bridge because I was a shit mom and Lily would be better off without me; the truth is.....depression lies and tells us we are worthless just like pseudo white supremacy lies would have us believe that white peoples' lives matter more than Black people's lives. As one of my anti-racism teachers, Catrice Jackson says, "there is nothing supreme about killing Black people".
Words don't work to express my profound gratitude for brain science and medication, for therapy and for my anti-racism teacher who have given me so much grace for me to realize that anti-oppression work is the ultimate in self care. Instead of gauging my worth on how much I was doing, I know my worth is immeasurable by getting out of my head, moving beyond performative allyship and into my heart to see Black people as human beings, with lives that truly matter. I know that staying is this work is my path to becoming a real human being.
I know I know, I promised the short version!
Suffice it to say, Lily and I are having the most amazing vacation; kicking it at the Delaware State Park beach with dear friends, strolling the Ocean City Boardwalk, playing mini golf and eating all the ice cream, visiting national monuments and learning our country's true history and being spoiled rotten by two dear restauranteur friends in DC. Yes, we are doing a lot and we are also "being" and healing from the strains of 2020 and the first half of 2021. I don't know anyone who has not come face to face with an oh-so-dark place and I am hoping that we can normalize mental health. erase the stigmas and stop losing so many wonderful people to suicide. I also hope that our courageous small-but-mighty crew of Austin, Simone, Blanca, Lourdes, Nancy, Juan, Jacob, Elysha, and Frederick, who have all had their own struggles too, can all take this paid pause free of worry and stress, free to put ourselves first, free to relax, restore, renew, rejuvenate and reimagine, free to fill our cups beyond the brim to overflowing so that when we do reopen, we will have that much more to pour into the life affirming fountain of abundance and Good Real Food that is this next evolution of our beloved Birchwood Cafe.
Though I have numerous conflicts with the values and leadership of both our government and the Independent Restaurant Coalition, I am grateful for the PPP loans and the Restaurant Revitalization Plan grant we received. There are times when you have to navigate within the system in order to change and mitigate the harm wrought by the system and this was one of those times. I am also mad as hell that the Black chefs, caterers and restaurateurs I am close to did not get any federal funds. Now that we have these funds, we plan to share our space and resources and do our best to practice humility and get out of the way of those who should be leading, those who have been systematically denied access and know best what they need so that our entire community can thrive. These funds will help a lot toward realizing a collective vision, one form of reparations, one drop in the bucket toward repayment of a debt owned.
I also share the utmost gratitude for our dear friends at House of Gristle and Until We Are All Free who are keeping the cafe's home fires lit and keeping the community fed, all while leading the fight for Justice. They have already taught us so much about taking time to take care and just how beautiful authentic relationships and building in community can be.
Thank you for your patience, your understanding for my lack of communication and your ongoing RSVPing a big bold beautiful YES to our twenty six year old invitation to join us and be the change we want to see.
Our current plan is to reopen on Friday, July 16th at 8am. Please note this date may change and stay tuned for info on reserving your patio table, your take out or a private dining experience in our lovely Cafe Community Room.
Changes are coming and we can't wait to share them with you.
with Love + Gratitude from your community shepherds and guardians of the present,
Tracy and Lily.