Observing Magical Moments

Father and son fishing in Jamestown subdivision


Magical moments. They’re all around us. The question is, do we notice them? What is a magical moment? To me, they are those ordinary moments we live in the present—but grow sweeter with time. We relish them in the present, and treasure them in the future. Like the photograph I snapped above a few days ago of a father and son fishing.

They never noticed me as I rode past them on my bike, made a U-turn, and stopped to observe them. The father patiently baited two hooks, while the son paced back and forth. Dad demonstrated how to cast the line. Son fidgeted, adjusted his oversized baseball cap, and squatted at the water’s edge. He appeared content to just be with his father on a warm August afternoon—fishing optional.

I wondered if I should share this photo with them or if it would interrupt the magic of the moment. I opted to hop back on my bike and continue riding, hoping the father was aware of the memorable, teachable moment he was experiencing with his son. And wondering if the son would unknowingly, but permanently, file this moment in his memory to retrieve it someday when he’s a father.


"When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments: tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become."

Louis Pasteur


At lunch today, as I sat at a table on the patio of a favorite restaurant, I noticed the muggy air—and something else. A grandfather sat at a table across from me with his two middle school age grandsons. He watched as they chowed down the meal he undoubtedly bought for them but didn’t eat lunch himself, instead; he made conversation.

As he spoke, he folded his arms across his chest and leaned into the dialogue. The smile on his face spoke to the joy he derived from their relationship. He fired questions about their baseball and soccer games. They responded with detailed feedback. The boys teased each other about a recent golf game, citing their achievements and laughing about their miscues. By the questions the grandfather asked, I suspected he lived out of town. Perhaps that’s why I noticed a gleam in his eyes—and the anticipation in his voice.

When the topic shifted from sports to Chinese food, I shot them a quick glance. Was I eavesdropping? Yes. It’s what writers do. We listen, observe, analyze, then write about our world, and what we glean from it, whether we are a part of the conversation—or simply overhear it.

Yet, it wasn’t their conversation that moved me. It was their tone. The old man spoke to them as an equal, seeking their opinions, observing their development, and blending joy with laughter. Likewise, the two grandsons showed him mutual respect.

As a breeze blew through my hair, they glanced at me. I looked away, took another bite of my pasta, and reached for my beverage. The scene reminded me of past exchanges with my sons as they grew up. I enjoyed taking them out to dinner on boys’ night out. Yet there was something unique about one-on-one nights with dad. During this time, they were more focused, vulnerable, willing to reveal their hearts, and give me room to climb into their world and listen to the things they were most passionate about.

I remember when my son, David, was in middle school, and over a hamburger, he recounted for me the entire Green Bay Packer game schedule of the previous season—game by game, recalling the final score of every game. No errors. It was then I gave him his nickname—Stats. I can still hear his eleven-year-old voice, his passion for football, Brett Favre—and his father’s approval. Magical moments. I relished them then—and treasure them now. I suppose the proof is I’m writing about them—twenty-eight years later.

These magical moments happen virtually every day, often disguised as mundane moments—daily routines—that slip by unnoticed, unless we use a special power we all possess.

The power of observation.


SOMETHING TO CHEW ON: Share an instance with me when you observed a magical moment with your family or during your childhood. Please drop me an email at jamescmagruder@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you.


Related to this story are two others I wrote you might enjoy. Chicken Soup for the Soul previously published both stories. The first is called “Time of Possession.” https://jamescmagruder.com/reboot-your-life.

The other is titled “The Men They Will Become.” https://jamescmagruder.com/best-advice



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