In "Perfectly Imperfect: A Life in Progress" Woodruff acknowledges she doesn't always know the right answers, but she describes with ease her parenting relationship with her oldest children and her younger daughter's deafness.
Read an excerpt of her book below.
You can tell a woman's whole life story from the possessions in her jewelry box. Like reading a palm, you can trace the points where her life has intersected with memorable events, people, places, and loves. You can mark the consequential and the inconsequential, you can divine a sense of her self and her own self- image, you can spot whimsy, mistakes, milestones, and passages. You can speculate on the essence of her personality, all from what she has accumulated in that box.
The silver twisted snake ring I made at camp, the sophisticated metal charm bracelet with the Chinese fan from a fifth- grade birthday, the serious pearl earrings for college graduation, the silver bangle bracelets I wore on my right arm as a teenager coming of age, bought one summer in Vermont—I treasured all of these, although they had passed from objects of adornment into relics of the past, like a threedimensional scrapbook.
I'd had that jewelry box for as long as I could remember. It had been purchased at a Woolworth's in Albany and had sat on my childhood dresser since my earliest memories. It was, to me, a most elegant thing: a thin veneer of navy blue leather covered the box, with some faux-Roman gold leaf pattern around the borders. On one corner the leather had ripped, revealing a flesh- colored patch, like skin, which I had once tried to color in with a marker.
A brass clasp at the front of the box made a snapping sound when I pressed the buttons on either side to open it. It had been years since I had officially shut it, and the closing mechanism hung straight out, like a tongue. The key had long ago been lost, so each time I packed to move, I wrapped a heavy rubber band around the box to make sure the contents were secure. The jewelry box was a present from my parents, although I've now forgotten why.
From the moment I had my first daughter, from the instant Cathryn was born, I'd harbored a vision of us splayed out on the floor with my jewelry box. I pictured us examining each piece I owned and my describing to her where it had come from, in great detail. I would use the jewelry to explain the stories of my life. I had saved them, in fact, for exactly this purpose.
As children, my two sisters and I had sat on the rug of my grandmother's living room, me cross- legged, my sister Meg on her stomach, legs bent back, chin in her hands. As my grandmother brought her jewelry box down to show us, my sister Nancy clapped her hands eagerly. There was treasure in that box, history and lore. Perhaps there were clues to my grandparents' marriage, the exotic places they had traveled, she a concert pianist and he a violinist, who accompanied her. Their lives had been so viscerally connected to music that in those moments when her fingers touched the piano keys and her eyes closed, it seemed to me that nothing else in the world existed for my grandmother. Not even us.