Jen 4th birthdayWe had a trio of birthdays in my family this week. My mother-in-law, a cousin and my own.

As English Rose remarked with all the sensitivity of an almost teen, I’m getting “old.” When I raised an eyebrow, she quickly amended it to “older” but the message was clear. From her vantage point, I am “old,” and this picture of me blowing out the candles on my fourth birthday cake verges on archival.

Although I’ve had mixed feelings about past birthdays, this year my perspective is different. Having had some health issues, this birthday was a gift. More than ever, it was a time to celebrate and be grateful for what the years have brought, and to look to the future with hope and optimism.

My mother always made birthdays special. If I celebrated at home, there was usually a fabulous homemade cake. One year, the design even replicated the family dog. If we were on holiday, I had a bakery cake with my favourite iced pink roses.

I often celebrated with a cousin whose birthday is the day after mine. Although geography has precluded us sharing our birthdays in many years, happy memories of those joint celebrations have a special place in my heart.

In my family, birthdays are about tradition and continuity. The china “birthday train” my grandmother gave me for my first birthday still comes out for my birthday supper, and the little animals I loved as a child still make me smile.

Birthday train & plate

I also have a “birthday plate” used by my dad on his first birthday and then passed to me. From a small town in western Canada, that plate has travelled many miles and has seen many birthday parties. It’s now into its third generation with English Rose and, I hope, will someday be used by her children too.

Although my birthday has lost the excited lustre it once had, the same anticipation I now see in English Rose as she counts off each quarter of the year as it brings her closer to her special day, it’s still a day to celebrate.

Like grey hairs, smile lines and back pain, birthday cake, presents and balloons may indeed be a reminder of the passing of time. However, the alternative, not being here to celebrate my birthday, isn’t something I want to imagine!


  1. Jennifer Wilck

    A very happy birthday to you! I love the traditions surrounding birthdays and I always try to make a big deal of everyone’s birthday here (even though most of them would prefer to ignore it). Hope you enjoyed a wonderful day!

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you, Jennifer. I had a lovely day celebrating with my family. Also happy to report that I had a cake with pink roses too!

  2. Tara Sheets

    Happy birthday!!! I hope you had a wonderful celebration. The birthday photos are just adorable. My favorite is your dad’s plate, handed down to you. What a wonderful tradition! Hugs!

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thanks so much, Tara. I appreciate your good wishes and hugs!

  3. Sue Bavin

    Happy birthday, Jen. I hope you had a wonderful day. Thanks for sharing your family’s birthday traditions – that little train is adorable. I am in awe of your mum’s ability to make cakes – the thought of a cake like your pet dog is just amazing.

    As for being perceived as old by your children – my friend was asked on her 40th birthday by her 6-year-old daughter, “What was life like in the First World War, Mummy?”

    Here’s to many more birthdays xxx

    • Jen Gilroy

      Your comment made me laugh. Loudly. Much to English Rose’s amusement. Thank you, Susanna! I needed that.

      Thanks for the good wishes too.

  4. Jean Bull

    Happy Birthday, Jen. I love birthdays too and can’t bear it when people don’t want to bother. We took my daughter to the races one year for her birthday. She loves horses. And on the way home she said, ‘Let’s go to PizzaHut!’ That’s my girl!

    • Jen Gilroy

      Many thanks, Jean. A birthday including the races and Pizza Hut sounds like a fab day! I appreciate you sharing in my birthday, virtually.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Blog

Want to get posts about my life, family, writing & more? To receive an email notification whenever I publish a new blog post, sign up here.


Want to get exclusive giveaways, subscriber-first book news & more? Sign up for my newsletter here.

Latest from the Blog

Photo by Robin Spencer, Spencer Studio