“Now, I can really see the resemblance here.”

My third-grade teacher made this remark as she projected a childhood photo of my aunt and a then-current photo of myself onto the classroom wall. It was Grandparent’s Day at school, meaning that we celebrated our grandparents by bringing them to class and showing them all we did in elementary school. Grandparents recounted stories of when they went to school and we, in turn, showed them our favorite things about the playground.

My grandparents were out of town that year, but I longed to participate in the festivities, so I brought my aunt. We sat in my third-grade classroom giggling in our seats. I raised my hand nice and high (as a child does when they have something to point out), to inform the teacher that she was, in fact, incorrect.

There was no resemblance.

My aunt and I are not related by blood. The teacher was slightly dumbfounded, as we did look more alike than any of the children and their grandparents there. And it’s true. We did look alike.

People had commented often ever since I was young that I look more like her than my own mother. It was merely coincidence that the blue eyes and the blonde hair of my youth connected the two of us. My aunt is a sister to neither my father nor my mother. Instead, she was my mom’s good friend from work.

Nevertheless, as I near the age of adulthood, she remains my aunt and always will. I address her as “Aunt” and she signs cards to me with “Love, Aunt Sandy.” It wasn’t that I didn’t have aunts, as both my parents had sisters. Neither of these young women, however, stepped up to fill the role.

At a young age, I was initially frustrated. I am their niece and yet they have made no notion to meet or love me. As the frustration subsided and maturity blossomed, I realized it didn’t matter.

This woman, my aunt, was more of an aunt than either of them ever could be. She sat at the hospital until the midnight hour when I arrived. She was the one that helped plan my surprise birthday parties. She had a Barbie fashion show with me when I was 6. She sets time aside to get boba and play the ukulele with me. I knew that it was okay because I realized something that had strongly impacted my life: it does not take blood to be family.

Photo Credits: Thea Snider