My children are big now, but most days I still feel pretty young. I don’t mean 22 or anything. But I don’t feel old—unless I sit criss-cross applesauce for more than 10 minutes, then I feel positively ancient. Also sometimes I hurt myself if I sleep wrong, or lift something heavy, or sneeze too hard. And once I pulled a muscle watching a Hallmark movie. OK, so maybe sometimes I feel my age.

But for the most part, this is not what I thought middle age would feel like. I thought I’d feel older

Still, despite the fact that I feel relatively young and energetic and despite the fact that I don’t actually have grandchildren, I am already happily and wholeheartedly embracing my inner memaw. In other words, I’m leaning into the days and years ahead and even enjoying some of the perks of being a lady with some years behind her. 

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My inner memaw is content to look spiffy.  This isn’t to say I am above sometimes fretting over a few extra pounds or I don’t find the appearance of new wrinkles unsettling. But I don’t remember a single conversation with either of my grandmothers about their appearance. That isn’t to say they didn’t take pride in how they looked. Both of them were lovely. They liked nice clothes, and they took care of their skin. But I think their goal was to look spiffy . . . not sexy, not 25.

There was a confidence about them that comes from being comfortable in your own skin. That’s where I want to be.

I like to exercise. I am careful (most of the time) about what I eat. I try to choose clothes that flatter my imperfect figure. But I am not trying to turn back the hands of time.

My inner memaw spends a lot of time in the kitchen. I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but as my kids have gotten older and busier, I’ve found that food is a surefire way to bring us all together. 

Generations of women have known this. That’s why Sunday dinner at Grandma’s house used to be a tradition for so many families. I realize now it’s probably one of the reasons my grandmother cooked—because she loved us and she wanted to please us but also because sharing a meal together is communal and strengthens family bonds. We thought she was just serving chicken spaghetti, but she was really serving love.

My inner memaw has strong opinions about things no one else cares about.

My memaw thought ripped jeans were tacky, and she had no tolerance for ending a sentence with a preposition. Personally, I am appalled that an entire generation of children did not learn cursive. I don’t expect anyone to agree with me. But that doesn’t stop me from voicing my outrage from time to time. There’s something that just feels good about being fiercely committed to a few things that don’t matter very much. In this day of hot-button issues and internet fury, it’s somehow cathartic. 

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My inner memaw is all about the house dress. I own my fair share of leggings and sweatpants, and in the colder months, that is my preferred around-the-house clothing. But the rest of the year, I’m likely to be hanging out around the house in a dress. I’m not talking about a muumuu or a kaftan—although I’m not ruling those out. But a house dress is any dress that is casual, loose, and comfortable, and the best ones have pockets. Wearing a dress at home, especially when I’ve been home day after day, like many of us have been recently, allows me to feel like I look spiffy and a little put together while still being super comfortable.

In addition to these things, I love to knit. I often have a tissue up my sleeve or in my bra, and I am considering buying butterscotch candies to keep in my purse. Most importantly, I love my family fiercely, just like Memaw.

Laura Hanby Hudgens

Laura is a junior high teacher and a freelance writer. She lives on a buffalo farm in the Arkansas Ozarks where she enjoys cooking and baking, which is also the key to bringing her busy family together. Her work has appeared on The Washington Post, Huffington, Post, Grown and Flown, Aleteia, ChurchPOP, and elsewhere. Find out more about Laura here.