From Austin to Abilene, Salisbury to San Francisco, she taught me how to be a RoadBroad.
Indulge me, please, as I pay tribute on this Mother’s Day to mine: Glenna Lea Couch Miller.
From a childhood spent in an orphanage to a widowhood making up for lost time, my mother lived adventure and attitude.
It began with her 1927 birth in a “teacherage”—that’s government-provided housing for schoolteachers—in Vernon, Texas. Here, Allie Couch holds up her surprise, born as the “but-doctor-I know-I’m-in-menopause” baby.
From Vernon, my mother moved into a Corsicana orphanage. There, her father served as superintendent for much of Glenna Lea’s childhood.
Imagine sharing all your birthday and holiday presents with 250 Depression-era orphans. Glenna Lea became a dedicated bookworm for good reason. Books were easier to share than a bicycle.
Evidence echoed an earlier report card, highlighted in 2/25/2019 post. Delighted, I showed Mrs. Mathis’ remarks to DH and shouted a loud aha! “At last, I know who gifted this gene!”
The teacher’s prescience also identified a family’s later tease point. Cough, cough: yes, math challenges were gene-shared, too.
While attending college, my mother joined a women’s singing trio. She spent her weekends during World War II traveling across central Texas to perform for base-bound soldiers.
Mears Studio hired her to model. In those pre-ballpoint pen days, UT students received these 3.5 x 5 inch “ink blotters” to use while taking class notes. Also, the studio enlarged this pose and plastered it on the side of their downtown building.
As an award-winning actress, Glenna Lea dreamed of a Broadway career. Marriage and children interceded. Post-war expectations ruled women’s lives.
Four children and two decades later, Mexico and deep-sea fishing beckoned.
I doubt Mother caught this thing. Instead, I imagine her reading as she humored my father’s love of all things fishy. If I had laser vision, I’d bet money on finding books in that bag. Yes, plural.
Fast forward 37 years. Glenna Lea asked to join a daughter’s European honeymoon—“but only for the first week.”
The tallest church spire in the United Kingdom lured us to Salisbury Cathedral, outside London. Mother stopped outside to read the outside plaques., Spot the tiny, huddled figure in the lower left here?
And so her pattern began. Every day for seven days, she read every word she could find in, on or about the place du jour. Across England, Bride and Groom gawked and listened as Mother/Mother-in-law read about Salisbury, Stonehenge. Bath. Westminster Abbey. St. Paul’s. Roman Wall. Others sites, too, all now forgotten, lost to middle age.
After my father died in 1994, Mother hit the road. Big trips, somewhere, every year. Santa Fe. Washington, DC. San Francisco. New York City (multiple times). Colorado. Across Texas.
In this single shot, I see a lifetime of dedication, love, and the full meaning of today.
If my mother could read this post, she’d say—as she always did—“Sweet girl, it’s perfect. And it’s your story to tell.”
I would answer back, “Thank you for your generous spirit. And Happy Mother’s Day, GL.”