Family Life: Birthdays



Family Life: Birthdays

By Diane Burton


Most families get together for the holidays, especially if they live nearby. Our Christmas Eve was noisy, chaotic, and fun. The twins mostly slept through the Children’s Service and our “traditional” Chinese take-out dinner, and even during the opening of gifts. While I enjoyed the squeals of delight and fist-pumping “yes” from the grandchildren, I noticed Hubs put his hearing aids in his pocket.

Next up on the family agenda was our son’s birthday at the beginning of the new year. His sister’s birthday is two weeks before Christmas, his is two weeks after. When they were little, we would decorate for Christmas for her birthday and leave everything up until after his. A whole month of celebrating.

My mother-in-law loved to decorate cakes. Her favorite was a ballerina cake, with a doll stuck in the middle of a half an upside-down round cake. Her “tutu” consisted of piped stars. For Daughter’s first birthday, she made the doll cake plus one for Daughter to smash. Our family and friends waited . . . and waited . . . No smashing. Instead, she daintily picked off bits of icing between her thumb and forefinger and tasted. When she became tired of that, she let her hand drop over the arm of the high chair and let our dog lick her fingers.

Cakes (with candles and ice cream, of course) is a staple of our birthdays. Growing up, I remember the delicious orange chiffon cakes my mom made from scratch with pineapple icing. Later, we had a special treat—a Sander’s buttercream layer cake with thick frosting and crushed nuts around the sides. Too bad the local (Detroit) baker and confectionary sold off their business. I loved those cakes.


When my children were little, I learned to decorate cakes using Wilton novelty pans and directions that usually included piping stars over the molded shape. I had fun learning a new skill, and the kids loved Raggedy Ann, Big Bird, the Count, an astronaut, and other characters for their birthday cakes.

When her daughter was born, Daughter took up the reins of cake decorator. She went far beyond her grandmother and my talents. As soon as she learned her dad’s favorite cake was Sander’s famous Bumpy Cake, she learned how to make them. Chocolate cake, hard chocolate frosting with “bumps” of cream frosting underneath. Chocolate lovers OD’d on her cakes.

With her birthday during the rush of Christmas preparations and, more importantly, rehearsals for granddaughter #1’s dance program, she preferred celebrating her birthday after the rush died down. For the first time in years, her birthday wasn’t the weekend of the dance program. And, we celebrated on her actual birth date.

While Son lived in Arizona, we often missed his birthday. Facetime was a great substitute but not like actually celebrating in person. We had another first this year. Celebrating on his actual birth date.

I’ve slowed down in my preparations for my children’s and husband’s birthday celebrations. I no longer cook big meals. Instead we go to restaurants. I buy cakes instead of making them. But the important thing is we celebrate as a family, even if it’s noisy and chaotic.

Gifts are a part of birthday celebration. To me, they are less important than being together. I love when Hubs brings home flowers from the grocery store. Typically, they last longer than those from a florist, sometimes two weeks. One year, Son took us to see the reboot of Star Trek. My first IMAX movie. What a treat.

Family birthdays used to be clumped in the fall. Now, they are spread throughout the year. Great for bringing family together.

How do you celebrate birthdays in your family?

Meet the Author


Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides the science fiction romance Switched and Outer Rim series, she is the author of One Red Shoe, a romantic suspense, and the Alex O’Hara PI mystery series. She is also a contributor to two anthologies: Portals, Volume 2 and How I Met My Husband. Diane and her husband live in West Michigan. They have two children and five grandchildren.

For more info and excerpts from her books, visit Diane’s website.

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You can read Diane's "Family Life" column the 3rd Wednesday each month at Pandora's Box Gazette.


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