For nine days I was Aunty Paula.

Actually, I’m Aunty Paula every day, but during nine days this July, the role of being an aunt was extra special. When I married Todd, I instantly became Aunty Paula, but my role to those nieces and nephews doesn’t feel the same as when my sister and her two children are visiting from California. There are a few reasons I’ve come to understand for having a special connection to Mariette and Stephen: their ages, their small number and their home address.

Pam’s kids are almost the exact same ages as my daughters. With a seven-year age difference between my sister and I, experiencing two pregnancies and births together helped me realize we were more similar than when I was just that pesty little sister she HAD to babysit.

There there is the idea of being an aunt to someone that is only eight years younger than myself. I became Aunty Paula to five nephews and three nieces when I married Todd. This number grew to a total of twelve soon after. I feel a stronger “Aunty Paula hat” when I’m around the younger ones and I never realized why until just lately. I guess I always figured as an aunt, I would see the children as they grew from infants to toddlers to teens and then adults. The oldest niece is only eight years younger than me so she was already twelve when we married.

Then there is the fact of the total number. There are quite a few nieces and nephews on Todd’s side and only one of each on my side of the family. I don’t mean that each isn’t special, but that also means there are more aunts and uncles too. When the kids on Todd’s side were babies, they would be passed around from person to person at family gatherings. There wasn’t a lot of one-to-one time unless we were babysitting.

We didn’t babysit Pam’s kids but that was different. All but two of Todd’s nieces and nephews live within a few miles of our home. Of the two that don’t, they still live in the same state and I could drive to see them. My sister’s kids? They live in California, almost 2500 miles away. Distance does makes the heart grew fonder, so when I finally get to be Aunty Paula in person to my California niece and nephew, I fully embrace both the title and the time I have with them. And each time I say good-bye, there is a stronger urge to make sure we get together again—soon–so I can proudly wear my Aunty Paula hat for my only blood-related niece and nephew.