Over a decade ago, we were happily looking forward to Easter and the warmth it would bring after a challenging winter of bitter cold.
Boy, did we get a surprise. Next to the ravaging remains of a recent hurricane that left the Rondarosa damaged – the first hurricane in the history of the Atlanta area – it was the biggest surprise we’d ever experienced from nature.
As you may know, the date of Easter is set by a particular full moon. Easter is always on the Sunday following the first full moon that rises after the first day of spring (March 21, the day after spring begins). If the March full moon fell on the March 19, then Easter would have to wait until the Sunday after the full moon in April. For this reason, Easter can be as early as the last Sunday in March or as late as the last Sunday in April.
The date of Easter is always a discussion in our family beginning at the first of the year. We love it when Easter falls in April and, therefore, is virtually guaranteed to be a beautiful, warm day as opposed to the questionable days of March.
Our favorite date is the end of April because that presents the possibility for a warm day. But back on that Easter in 2006 – or maybe it was 2007— we got a rude awakening, one that those whoever experienced it will remember until death beckons them away.
The flowers were blooming gloriously. Roses were at perfect pitch while hydrangeas and azaleas colored the yard. I had planted a gardenia bush that was fragrant and lovely. The trees were bursting forth, on their way to being fully leafed. The leaves, because it had been a particularly warm spring, were about three-fourths grown.
Several days before Easter weekend, weather forecasters began a dire prediction: a hard freeze was coming on Saturday night. Mama and I both rushed around our yards, trying to cover up roses, hydrangeas and azaleas and toting inside the geraniums and other potted plants. On Easter morning, we awoke to tiny particles of silver ice clinging to everything. Winter temperatures and an unkind wind swept through the day. Our lightweight summer-like Easter dresses demanded to be covered by heavy wool coats.
On the way to church, Mama and I both bemoaned what had happened and what it would mean. Mama loved spring. Not just for the warmth but for the blossoms it brought and the opportunity to plant a summer garden. Holding to her mountain beliefs, she planted either on Good Friday or another day when the signs of the moon were equally good for planting.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Mama said. “It has killed everything that was starting to grow.”
She looked toward a mountain filled with trees decorated in the beautiful bright, fresh green of spring leaves. She shook her head.
“Every single leaf on every tree has been killed. Within a week or so, all those leaves will turn brown and fall off.”
I could have cried. I love trees. I hate to see them distressed or damaged.
“Will the leaves come back?” I asked worriedly.
Mama always knew things like this. She was wise and well learned in the ways of nature. But though she was in her mid-80s, she had never seen such a deep freeze so late into an exceptionally warm spring.
She furrowed her brow. “I don’t know. I’ve never seen this. We’ll just have to see what happens.”
As she predicted, the leaves soon deserted the trees, leaving them uncharacteristically naked in May and into June. By the end of June, the trees had made recovery and regrew completely. Though, most the flowering blossoms did not return.
Every year I think of that late spring freeze and how everything was killed over night yet beautifully resurrected.
It seems perfect that it happened on Easter weekend.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “Mark My Words: A Memoir of Mama.” Please visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter. Her column appears Tuesdays.