Knock Out Red, a Pandemic, and the Hammond Family

As most of us have discovered lately, we have more time on our hands.  We have time to walk and think and watch as life slows down.  Watch especially as those things that seemed so important only yesterday peel away to reveal the intangibles that are vastly more so.  We’ve rediscovered the power of a long walk, a good book, the sound of a friend’s voice, and the rhythm of nature that, with all its predictability, is oblivious to the disruption of our own cadence.
As I find myself spending more time than usual in the yard, blooming flowers and budding trees have come into sharper focus.  I’ve stopped to smell the roses, if you will.  One rose in particular, a Knock Out Red, is putting on a spectacular show right now … in fact, it throws a party every day.  Far from shy, its siren call is the bold, brash red that all but screams at you to take notice.
This rose is special to me.  During the gym renovation and Innovation Center construction, some of our landscaping was removed to make way for the new and newly-renovated.  One of a few, the rose bush was destined for the landfill when I brought it home to nurture and revive it.  Today, in the midst of the pandemic, it’s returning the favor.  
This Hammond rose of mine serves as a daily reminder of how much the Hammond family has meant in my own life.  As a 13-year old, I watched my charming and gregarious mother rapidly succumb to ALS.  An anchor that gave my life a sense of normalcy, Hammond was there … in the families who brought meals and offered rides to school and ballgames and plays, and in the teachers who sensed my struggle to maintain good grades and were compassionate about my lack of focus. The Hammond family circled the wagons, and for me, it became a soft place to land.
Over the years, other curve balls have come my way and the Hammond family has always been there.  That soft place to land has come in the form of Friday night ballgames, concerts, and school days spent with colleagues and volunteers.  Digging deep and telling the Hammond story is healing … not to mention I’ve acquired new skills and made lifelong friends along the way.
Today, April 6, I mark the start of my 14th year at Hammond.  It comes as no surprise that after all these years, I’m still knocked out by red, I still love to tell the story, and while I find myself in the midst of yet another life-changing event, I know that Hammond is a soft place to land.  So together with you, I’ll continue to celebrate this amazing school and all it has meant to me and to so many others. 

-Cissy Pope

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