A Grandmother’s Legacy

Willie Brooks Woodring

Willie Brooks received her name because her father wanted a boy. No gender reveal back then, so the name stuck. According to my mom she went by Brooks; can’t say that I blame her. Willie is a tough one, even for a boy. Though I don’t remember meeting her I have pictures to tell me I did. I was only two or three at the time and, well, I wasn’t blessed with a strong memory for most anything and I certainly have no idea about things that long ago.

As far as I can tell I am most like my Grandma Brooks Woodring. Certainly my physique resembles hers and I have her knack for crochet and other handicrafts. I am anxious and mom has said she had a nervous side. I think about her when I do the things she would have done…crochet and cook a great meal all while using every pot in the house and making a grand mess. But the food is always delicious.

I also love chickens but in a city girl kind of way.
I’m fairly certain she never gave her chickens names.
Grandma was pragmatic…they were dinner.

Nellie Perkins-Liu

I know even less about my paternal grandmother. Nellie has been a mystery my entire life. All we have are a couple of pictures and a ladies pocket watch that supposedly was hers.

Nellie Perkins-Liu
January 1924

I can’t remember the origin of my interest or how long I have been fascinated by my grandmother. Maybe it is that there is so little known and the romance of the unknown is always tantalizing.

That is my father she is holding in the picture. Sadly, within weeks she was hospitalized and never came home. My dad never knew his mother and my grandfather never talked about her. They came from a generation where men didn’t discuss such things; they just stoically moved on. To the best of my knowledge her family never had anything to do with dad. I have no idea if that was them or my grandfather’s doing. They are all gone now so I will never know for sure. But the desire to know about her has been a near constant thought since at least 1978. Fortunately before my grandfather passed away I summoned the courage to ask about her. The veil of secrecy was thick and we were not emotionally close to him.

I am working on learning more of the ins and outs of research of this type. Ancestry is a wonderful tool as is newspapers.com. I can spend hours moving from place to place gathering tidbits of information and storing them away like a chipmunk with acorns.

Telling Her Story

No one else in my family has been haunted by her story the way I have. I don’t mean in a literal sense, but in the sense that I feel this is a torch that has been passed to me. In the long run, there is only one great grandchild to carry her forward; my brother’s daughter is now a married woman and one day will have children of her own thus the family story has value for her.

But beyond the family saga, I feel there is a bigger story. The story of a young Chinese woman born in Honolulu in 1905 and who only lived for nineteen and a half years. It was, however, long enough to give birth to my father and thus I believe, her purpose had been fulfilled. Had she lived to raise him, or any other factors of my dad’s raising changed, my brother and I would not have been born. I am thankful for her life.

I am now a grandmother. I wonder what legacy I am leaving for my three granddaughters. What will they remember about me? Have I taught them the important things that only grandmothers can teach? Because of our busy modern lives have I done the best I could or have I allowed busyness to get in the way? Time will tell.

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