Frances Couch is one of my closest friends. She also happens to be my grandmother. This may seem odd to some people; however, it has always made perfect sense to me. Physically, she is a typical grandmother with her ivory hair and softly wrinkled skin. It is her eyes which reveal a deeply set intelligence which no amount of time can erase. There is a youthfulness about her; it resides in her smile and in her laughter. My grandmother is neither dull nor boring by any means, and everything she says seems worthy of my attention. I’ve sat for hours in her open, airy living room listening as she told stories of her travels, painting brilliant pictures for me with every word.
In her youth, Grandmother discovered her passion for reading. Books which told of far off places were among her favorites. They spoke of glorious cities with ancient ruins and streets of water. Her imagination would sail her away to these foreign lands, allowing her to experience many wonders a poor southern girl in the midst of the Great Depression could only dream of. These windows into the world gave her hope that she would one day see it all for herself.
Many years later she began traveling the United States. She had a thirst for places she had never been, and seldom visited typical vacation spots. Whether it be the salty air of the coast, or the cool, crisp atmosphere high in the mountains, Grandmother always enjoyed the climate changes as well as the scenery. Even though she enjoyed each state with its unique personality and charm, she still yearned for a chance to explore other countries. In the seventies she finally had her chance in the form of the “Around the World Tour”.
The realization she would be traveling the world was exhilarating. Be that as it may, the prospect of flying for the first time was terrifying; each liftoff and landing would fill her stomach with butterflies. In the end it turned out to be well worth enduring the fear of flight. London, Paris, Venice, Florence, Rome, Hong Kong and Tokyo were among the places she visited. The fine web of images her beloved books had spun was spread before her, tangible and bustling with life. Though she had never been to these cities before, like old friends, they all seemed familiar.
Those weeks, spent traveling from one place to another, proved to be some of the most incredible moments of her life. After exploring the sights, sounds and tastes of the world, Grandmother returned home, feeling exhausted, but very cultured. This trip truly inspired her, and thereafter she traveled as often as she could.
Thirty years later she speaks of these places with happiness and gratitude that she had the opportunity to enjoy them. It satisfies her to be able to share her memories with me. The years have blurred these memories around the edges a bit, giving them a dream-like quality. It is these “dreams” which have intrigued and inspired me for years, and these dreams are a part of what makes Grandmother such an amazing, interesting person.