Hangin’ With Klecko: Reconnecting With Miss W
Dateline: Klecko Mansion
In the parlor, on the chaise lounge, my wife began to thumb through my recent poetry book.
After several moments of silence, she leaned forward and read the dedication out loud;
“This book is dedicated to the Home Ec teachers of District 281 in gratitude for their training, love and support.”
Next she smirked, closed the book and as she returned it to the coffee table she asked: “When was the last time you talked to your home ec teachers?”
I responded by explaining that I never saw them after graduating junior high, and even though my dedication was aimed at an entire department, in my heart, I was thinking about one teacher in particular, Miss W.
This was the image of home ec before 1976 when Danny “Klecko” McGleno signed on.
More silence passed, my wife reclined and with a perturbed look she explained to me that an acknowledgment in a book is nice, but if I really cared, I needed to track her down and thank her face-to-face.
The idea sounded good, but as I began doing the math … I had my first cooking class with Miss W. in 1976, so that meant 43 years had passed.
I justified my behavior: “Forty-three years is a long time, baby, and well, you know, she might not even be living. Then I’d feel bad that I realized how much this woman impacted my life and I never told her. That would kind of bum me out.”
My wife stood up, and as she retreated, she reminded me: “You have many annoying qualities, but cowardice has never been one of them.”
The following day at work, between doughs, I ran into my office and called district headquarters and asked a human resources guy if he could help me track down my home ec teacher from 1976. He informed me that if he was able to locate her, the best he could do was send her a message, but it would be up to her to respond.
He asked me her name. When I responded Miss Williams, he asked what her first name was. This alerted me that my helper had to be youngish, because anyone close to my age knows in the ‘70s we wouldn’t ever think our teachers had first names.
My helper mumbled to himself and I could hear him rifling through directories and pounding his computer keyword.
As the mumbling continued I noticed some of the time the mumble-tone was optimistic, but other times it seemed uncertain.
Tick-tock went the clock and as my emotional duress was about to hit its crescendo, the helper indicated he thought he may have stumbled onto a strong lead, and he would call me back.
Toward the end of my shift, my phone rang and as I answered, the district helper chirped with glee: “We got her, she’s living out of state. She retired in the ‘90s and is living in the south, but when I told her about your request, she said she’d be happy to speak with you.”
After thanking the district human resources guy, I washed up and went out to the bakery parking lot and sat in my car.
As I stared as the phone number I became nervous, I wasn’t sure what to say, so I decided to just tell the truth.
I dialed the number, the phone rang, but I was thrown off balance a bit because a man picked up.
I explained: “My name is Daniel McGleno and I am calling for Miss W.”
As he set the phone down, I realized over 43 years, she was probably no longer a Miss, and even if she became a Mrs., the politically correct thing would be to refer to her as Ms. W.
My body became goose flesh, my stomach began to turn, I’ll bet I was probably even blushing when I heard: “Danny McGleno, is this you?”
“Yes, ma’am, it is. I’m not sure if you remember me, but I was in your first-ever home ec class that made it mandatory for boys to attend. That was in 1976, and anyway … I should have contacted you earlier, but recently I wrote a book, and it’s kind of a big deal, and I dedicated it to you and the other home ec teachers at school, but mostly you.”
Miss W. responded: “I didn’t sleep a wink that entire summer. I was so nervous about having to teach home ec to boys. I was certain they would hate it, and to be honest I was a bit nervous that by doing so I might be contributing to destroying the moral fabric of our community.”
“Did you think you were going to make us sissys?” I asked.
After a brief pause, my teacher replied: “It was a totally different time. We didn’t attach things like this to sexuality, it wasn’t thought that cooking would make boys effeminate, but it just wasn’t done, basic education principals were never challenged.
“I must say though, I am shocked and delighted at how wonderful everything turned out. How many of my boys, turned out to become better rounded young men. How was it viewed at your house, what did your dad think?
I answered: “My dad left when I was 2. I was one of those kids who was on the edge. I could have gone either way, Miss W. I had plenty of chances to pursue a life of crime, and truth be told, I considered that, but I also loved to bake. You were the first person to teach me. I still remember during my first class, you set me at a table with three nice-looking girls and we made apple crisp. I never touched a wrench after that.
“I’ve always been very proud of being a baker, but I do remember one day, when I was attending Dunwoody’s baking program, my grandfather stopped by my apartment, and when he saw that I had a red Craftsman toolbox on my table, he smiled real big and pushed past me. He opened the toolbox without asking, and when he saw it was filled with pastry bags and fondants wheels, that smile faded just a bit.”
Miss W. laughed and then we both paused and I realized there wasn’t much more to say, so before hanging up I closed by telling her the main reason I called: “It might sound cliché, but I have to tell you Miss W., not only did you teach me a valuable skill, but you gave me the happiest life I could have imagined.”
Then we hung up and I pointed my breadmobile toward St. Paul proper, thinking … Good things just seem to keep happening when I listen to my wife—and Miss W.
Until next time ...
Dan “Klecko” McGleno can be reached at email@example.com or 651-329-4321.