21. June 2012 · 8 comments · Categories: Stories

Miss Gluntz, thank you. And I’m sorry.

You were my first-grade teacher, and while at this point in my life I don’t remember a whole lot about first grade anymore, I do remember being a happy schoolgirl, in large part because of you. You had pretty eyes and a beautiful smile. You were supermodel tall, and so was your hair. You were probably younger than any of us could have ever imagined. I loved you so.

Cut to four years later. I was in fifth grade and so immersed in my own little world, I didn’t know you’d left school. I’m guessing you did because you got married and maybe wanted to start a family of your own. I was in Mr. Burnett’s homeroom and had just been voted Red Cross representative, in charge of shaking down classmates for donations to the American Red Cross and rewarding them with little red pins in the shape of a cross and feather. I sat in the corner of the classroom, next to the chalkboard and windows.

I don’t know what we were doing when there was a knock at our classroom door. But when Mr. Burnett opened it and you stepped through, all seven-feet-tall of you – that’s the way it looked to us fifth-graders – you were still beautiful, and you were wearing different clothes from the ones you wore when you were our first-grade teacher. Fancier. Your hair was a little longer, maybe curlier, and you wore makeup.

I have to say I didn’t recognize you right off.

You spoke. Probably made a little small talk at first with Mr. Burnett. Some of us squirmed in our seats.

Then you said, “I was wondering if Cynthia Mihaloew is here. She was in my first-grade class. I wanted to stop by and see how she’s doing now.”

You smiled like a movie star. We all stared back like deaf-mutes. Bill Boyer turned around and looked at me. I sat there, quiet as a rock, arms glued to my sides.

Mr. Burnett must have told me to raise my hand, because I remember there being a general shuffle in the room and more kids turning to look at me. I raised my hand the bare minimum. We made eye contact and you said, “There you are.”

Then you said: “You were such a special little girl. I loved being your teacher. I know you’re going to grow up to be something really special some day.”

At least that’s the way my ten-year-old little pea-brain remembers it.

Did I say thank you? No. Did I so much as nod curtly? No. Did I do anything at all? No.

It was the ultimate diss. You said a few more words, I don’t know what, and then you left. I felt totally embarrassed for being called out like that.

“Turn back around,” I said to Bill Boyer.

Cut to I don’t know how many years later. Maybe it was the first weekend I came home from college, when I suddenly realized that my parents weren’t such idiots after all. Maybe it was my first job out of college, which made me wish I had appreciated college a little more. Maybe it was the first divorce. Maybe the second.

Suffice it to say, I grew up, made mistakes, made more mistakes, then grew up some more. In the middle of all this I remembered you coming to my fifth-grade class and saying those really very precious things. You took time to seek me out, drive to the school, get permission to come into our room, and say what you did. And you didn’t have to do any of it.

But you did. And I just want to say to you:  Thank you so very much. You are precious to me too, and have been for years. I’m sorry I was such a ten-year-old punk. I sold myself short, even back then. But I’m happy now. Doing well at work and at life, and hope to do even better. Wherever you are, thank you for what you said that day. It means more to me than I can say.

I hope you’ve had a good life too.


Miss Gluntz’s first name is Janet. Cynthia is my given (and legal) first name. Mihaloew is my daddy’s last name.

UPDATE, 12/22/12Since being in touch with Miss Gluntz’s family, I must correct my error and let you know that Miss Gluntz’s first name is Patricia. I think I may have confused it with Eddie and Nancy’s mama next door, whose first name really was Janet.