Late Frost “can result in trees losing a year’s growth and repeated frost damage can kill trees or hold them in check for many years. Some trees, however, are able to eventually grow to a height above the frost line and then grow normally.” (At least according to a Canadian study)
This year in parts of Connecticut beech trees are leafing out in July. In early May there was a hard frost and the invisible beginnings of leaf production that had just started were frozen dead.
It was understandable that there were almost no magnolia blooms amid those trees bouncing into life this spring, as flowers are the icing on the cake of a plant’s health, so the brutal cruelty of a viciously late frost was an easy reason for the sadness of a flowerless May.
But these tiny beech tree leaves were invisible, so the lack of early summer foliage amid the long term maple blight could easily be read as death. But appearances are not always reality.
My parents had a late frost.
In the late spring of their marriage, 7 years into it, World War II came. The tender shoots of my father’s promising career at the Wall Street law firm he chose to work at upon leaving law school were eventually froze dead by forces out of his control.
Pearl Harbor brought on an Ice Age of crushed lives throughout an America still not beyond the Great Drepresion. My father was forced, at 33, to join the navy. He had already spent the 8 years reserve service in the Army Field Artillery after ROTC at college: but Hitler was winning in 1942 and it was all hands on deck. Join up, salvage a commission somewhere, or be drafted, and lose all control.
The damage of his 4 year life detour was slow to be revealed: it was assumed that his position was there for him upon return from the Pacific. But a 4F Associate in his law firm neither served nor waited for his place in the Partnership Line. The young weasel jumped in to fill the opportunity that my father’s compelled absence presented. It turned out spending a dozen years in parttime service and training did not allow you to escape the draft if you were fit and under 40, even if you were an Ivy White male in 1942.
The catastrophic break in the surety of a reasonably entitled future of confident employment, social standing and personal identity never really healed for my parents. After a rough return, my father found ultimately partnership in a boutique Wall Steet firm, but it was not the same, ever, as his first choice.
Before the 1960’s called into question white male dominance in America, white males, especially those with Ivy Credentials in all their education, had legitimate expectations – just like spring means that freezing is finished for a couple of seasons. The legitimacy was not just merit based, but system based. Being male, being white, being Ivy meant that a ladder was climbed and the fruit could be picked.
Unlike so many of his piers, my father built his ladder: he was the first in his family to go the high school. His extreme effort and an excellent brain meant academic success at every level. Climbing the ladder was the easy part: building it was a bitch.
His mother died unexpectedly when he was one, and my father was raised until five by spinster aunts in Toronto, his early spring had a frost or two: but in early spring, frosts damage less.
As with Climate Change, altered patterns in families tend to extend into an indeterminate future. My parents late frost hurt their children’s early springs. When reasonable expectations become ashes in your mouth, the fear of repeating crushing disappointment is hard to shake. As my siblings did not initially express the expected levels the achievement of our father, the fear of another hard break in his expectations meant a severe frost in their relationships (abetted by a great deal of post 5pm drinking). https://savedbydesign.wordpress.com/2016/04/11/siblings/
So I am left driving down I-95 seeing new leaves in July, thinking of my sisters.
I am with only myself, who had the earliest frost, and thus the least damage. I could use the brain God gave me well enough in my later spring to avoid their damage. Weather is without reason, as is war. I still am uneasy about why I was not frozen dead in the extreme weathering, I am grateful, but unknowing and essentially without confidence that frosts will not return, even approaching 61. https://savedbydesign.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/extremity/
The unreasonable outcomes of chance and sadness are abiding. But when they happen later in our springs they damage more because there is more to damage. I am quite sure my outlook is damaged, but my performance is not. Like my father, my early frost allowed me to perform out of immediate fear of its return.
But for my parents return it did: with glacial impact.
I do not know how I would be different if I did not have my very early frost, or a later one, or none. But every perspective I have, and will have, is yet coping for my family’s frosts. I can only wonder what my siblings perspectives are. We are WASP, and thus we only see consequences, let alone talk about them (or even, really, understand them.)
Like the beech trees this year, my siblings and I coped. But the later the frost the more the cope is shaped by it. “Some trees, however, are able to eventually grow to a height above the frost line and then grow normally.”