“I just couldn’t wait any longer…” – Christopher Van Wingerden
On my first day my sophomore year at a new high school I carried around lollipops to make friends. My Aunt had suggested it to me earlier that summer and I was desperate for new beginnings, so I took her advice.
About 15 minutes into my first class on my very first day, I turned to a girl sitting next to me.
Me: “Would you like a lollipop? I’m Leah by the way….”
Her: *wide eyed* “Uh, uhmm… No thanks.”
Anna: (from a row over) “Ohhhh yummy lollipops, I’ll have one! And I’m Anna.”
Boom! The birth story of my friendship with Anna Stevens Ballweber.
Anna got off the plane around 6:30 a.m. on Friday morning. I was waiting for her arrival like a kid on Christmas Eve, anxious, excited and dang I had to pee! What was taking so long?
I see her coming towards me and I scream, jump up and down and whisk her into a huge hug. I place my hands on her shoulders, gulping in her good vibes and sweet smile and I say,
“Dude, I have GOT to go to the bathroom. Wait by the car and I will run in real quick.”
Anna: “Uhm. Erhm. No, just stay here for a moment.”
Me: “Anna, it’s okay, they don’t harass you here like they do at DIA. I just need a minute and then we will go.”
And as I start to turn around to walk to the bathroom,
My brother, Cooper, walked out of the airport. Cooper was there to celebrate the weekend with us!
We went for breakfast, to Terminal Reading Market, to the Natural History Museum, to the Liberty Bell, and finally, I took them to my office to check out the campus and area. Successful day enjoying Philadelphia.
We finished the day at the Full Moon Saloon, cheers-ing to time well spent with family and friends. In these moments, I was filled with joy that the people who I loved came all this way to make my weekend special.
Saturday was an all-time beach day with the works; sun, sand, beer and swimming!
We finished the day off with an incredible meal together at the Granary overlooking the Sassafras river.
I went to bed that night loving my 24th year and ready for my 25th.
I woke up Sunday morning to Christopher kissing my forehead saying,
“Wake up slow, love. I will see you later.”
I slept another hour or so, until the sun came up and then crawled out of bed. Cooper and Anna were waiting for me excitedly.
I stumbled into a note from Christopher saying he had big plans for the day, so big in fact, that he was sending us on a scavenger hunt without him. Anna handed me clue # 1.
The clue lead us to a cute breakfast spot nearby, The Bohemia Cafe, where we enjoyed steaming coffee and leveled up for the day.
Clue #2 lead us to a place called Go Ape, a high flying zip-line adventure course in Lums State Park. We walked into the building and I looked down for a moment to glance at the safety rules when all of the sudden, Tess freaking Keller is standing in front of me. Queue the ugly tears.
Tess freaking Keller came all the way from California (for just about 24 hrs) to surprise me on my birthday. Tess has been my girl and soul sister for many moons, and the only thing missing from the weekend was her presence, until suddenly, she need not be missed because she was RIGHT THERE!
We enjoyed the adventure park and then I was given clue #3, which lead us down to the water for a beautiful lunch.
Clue #4 was supposed to lead me to a boat tour, but it got canceled that morning due to weather, so we all decided to head to my house after lunch to re-group.
Just when I didn’t think I could be any more surprised, Clue #5 took me to the Full Moon Saloon where NATHAN AND LAURA BETH were waiting. Nathan! Laura! I almost fell over!
Then I was given clue #6 which lead me to Jake & Wendy’s estate.
Mark & Julie drove the whole gang in the 15 passenger van to Jake & Wendy’s and when we got to their driveway, I was instructed to get out and walk down the path, which was lined with beautiful trees and hanging baskets. I started walking, my heart was beating out of my chest. 15 steps… 20 steps… 25 steps.. And finally I hear,
Chris: “Hello my love.”
I ran to where he was standing, on a blanket in the beautiful yard, holding an umbrella. He looked nervous, but didn’t skip a beat. He looked at me, got down on one knee and said:
“I love you so much Leah. Will you marry me?”
I fell down, saying “Yes, of course!”
That’s when the family began to clap and cheer, running outside towards us. In that moment I could see all the other special attendees who came to witness the special moment. Lynn! Arie! Katie and Cora! They all traveled land and sea to be with us! I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked. I felt so honored and loved. Plus, Eddie and Raquel and their kids were there too. It felt like the room as going to float away, it was willed with so much love.
That’s when the engagement party began. There was fresh roses, champagne, tons of food and my most favorite humans in the whole world! When I felt like we had overstayed our welcome, we moved the party to the Full Moon and when they closed, we wrapped the night up at our house.
Truly, it was a dream that will replay in my heart and memories for the rest of my life.
Special thank you to my fiancé Christopher for planning such an incredible event. Thank you to his parents, Lynn and Arie for shaping him into the person he is today and for being there for our engagement. Thank you to Anna, my cool-as-a-cucumber chica. Thank you to Tess, my best. Thank you to Cooper, for being the best big brother a girl could have. Thank you to Nathan and Laura for always being the life of the party and for loving me and Chris. Thanks to Katie our favoritest little sister and Cora, our God daughter for not only showing up but knowing us through and through. Thanks to Jake and definitely Wendy, for cooking, cleaning and setting up the engagement party and for letting it happen on your incredible property. Thanks to Raquel and Eddie for being there and always making us laugh. Thank you, thank you, thank you.