Capturing the exquisite moments with eyes wide open.

It’s a gorgeous spring day on our 22 acres outside Fulton, rolling green set against a periwinkle sky. It’s where I come to breathe. Today all four kids, their families, plus my dad and my sister, who are visiting from out of state, are here to celebrate. Four generations together — a rare treat. I’m relishing every idyllic minute. The afternoon spent fishing, exploring, hiking, and picnicking is nearly over before I remember the photo.

“Hey, you guys!” I say, calling everyone in. “Let’s get a picture under the big tree.”

“Mom, I’ve got my good camera in the car,” my son says. “I’ll go get it.”

Of the four kids, Jeremy is my only boy. He’s back in school at 31, going to Wichita State for the grueling physician’s assistant program. I watch him stride away, six feet and 220 pounds, the Kelty kid carrier strapped to his back swaying as the blonde head of his 2-year-old son gently bobs up and down. Behind me, his 4-year-old son plays near the base of the sprawling old oak chasing a tiny black Chihuahua (one of three granddogs) who runs circles around him.

Jeremy returns with the camera. Negotiating the cargo on his back, he bends to place the camera on a tree stump. I stoop to check the shot and as he adjusts the depth of field, the image sharpening into focus. In my mind’s eye, the range of images from near to far begin to merge. Can it be? The blue-eyed boy before me with round cheeks and a broad smile is not my own toddler, but my grandson.

“Ready?” Jeremy shouts. I move quickly to my husband’s side and slip under his arm. My sister scoops up the dog, dad hugs his teenage granddaughter, and my oldest coaxes her nephew into her lap. Jeremy bolts, his cowboy boots dancing across the ground and his baby boy bouncing along for the ride, grinning open-mouthed. We all laugh and Jeremy slides in next to his wife, just as the shutter clicks, capturing the moment forever.

Life isn’t perfect, but this moment is exquisite. An increasingly familiar emotion surfaces: the deep satisfaction, tinged with sadness, of watching my children blossom into adults so quickly. My father, white-haired for decades, must feel the same when he looks at me. Though my son towers over me now, I clearly see the infant, born with hair forecasting an irrepressible personality. Jeremy chased life, careening off the walls and ricocheting into the next adventure, embellishing his exploits with contagious laughter. Underneath his boisterous joie de vivre breathed the most gentle soul and a tender heart, full of compassion as big and wide as his smile.

When you’re a mother to a boy, they say you’re not just raising your son; you’re raising someone else’s husband and father. My son was a good boy who grew into a good man. I blinked and he was a husband and father. Now he’s raising the next generation. My hair is graying, like my father’s. I’ll blink again and it will be white. But for today, I’m keeping my eyes wide open.

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