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The Long Version . . . (Complete with visual effects)

We had been planning for a while (since May) to make a trip to visit Ben’s parents in Westchester over the summer. He took care of booking the flights, and informed me that we would arrive on a Saturday, spend Sunday kayaking down the Delaware with his Dad, visit his Grandma Etta in Long Island on Monday, and then head back to Atlanta on Tuesday. On June 25, Matthew (Ben's roommate) and his girlfriend Christina dropped us off at the airport and we headed inside. (That's Matthew and Christina on the right; during our trip to Kiawah, SC the week prior)

Immediately, Ben said that his morning coffee (which had now become an addiction) wasn’t sitting well and he needed to use the restroom. For those of you that know Ben – this is pretty par-for-the-course :) He left me with the luggage in the Atrium of Hartsfield Airport and told me he’d be right back.

Dana (Ben’s sister) was supposed to call that morning to let us know who would be picking us up at LaGuardia. At 9:00 am sharp, my phone rang. Dana said that she would be picking us up – and then asked if I had Ben’s book. Completely confused, I hummed and hawed for a few seconds, wondering “was I supposed to bring a book for Dana?” She then asked again, “Did Ben leave his book with you?” Sure enough, I looked down at Ben’s suitcase and the book he had recently finished reading in Hilton Head was sitting on top of his luggage. Dana instructed me to turn to the second to last page of the book. She then told me to have fun and hung up the phone. The page was covered with Ben’s writing. The note explained that we were NOT going to New York. And that I had just begun a scavenger hunt which would ultimately uncover my Graduation/congrats on a new job present.

The hunt took me throughout the Atrium (hauling BOTH pieces of luggage). I had to retrieve a clue from Baggage Storage, find a particular Delta brochure, do several math problems (all involving keys dates and numbers from our relationship) and word games. Ultimately, with the help of my phone-a-friend Josh Bornstein and the miracle of Google search, I discovered that we were actually headed to St. Thomas and that Ben was hiding in the MARTA Station.

Once found, Ben explained that this was all his gift to me for a successful graduation. We had never taken a trip just the two of us – and so it really did seem pretty normal.

Did I know a proposal was imminent? NOT AT ALL. Ben and I had discussed the future and marriage several times, all with the same conclusion: he was not prepared to get engaged before completing the first round of med. school boards (still a full year away) and wanted us to live in the same city for a while before making that commitment. I was NOT expecting anything more to happen.

St. Thomas was AMAZING. We stayed in the most beautiful resort (Point Pleasant) atop a hillside with an unbelievable view. Ben rented a Jeep Wrangler and we had a romantic dinner the first night by the waterside.

The next day, we woke up early and took the car ferry over to St. John. The Barden’s use to take vacations to St. John and always visited a beach called Maho Bay. Their first dog was named ‘Maho’ and the beach is very special to Ben. We drove the Jeep around the coast of St. John and walked down to Maho Bay. The whole area is gorgeous. . . a sort of campground with activities and a café, and about a million steps which lead down to a private beach. There were about 12 people TOTAL on the beach with us. We rented snorkeling equipment and swam around the reefs, communicating with each other underwater with an established “hand squeezing code”. After snorkeling, we had some snacks on the beach and relaxed in the sun. In the afternoon, we rented a kayak and headed out into the water. We kayaked around the rocks and ended up on a totally secluded beach.

Ben wanted me to come sit on a small ledge where he use to play as a child, but being that it was approximately 120 degrees outside (at least it felt that way) – I was more interested in playing in the water. Being the good sport that he is, Ben joined me in the ocean. I was sitting in his lap, as we talked about how amazing everything was and how unbelievable the trip had been so far. We were having mushy talk – how much we loved each other and how neither one of us could imagine not being with the other. At this point he said “Will you marry me?” Being so sure of the timeline that he had established for me, I replied “Of course . . . when you ask me.” At this point, he pulled the soaking wet ring box from the zipper pocket of his bathing suit (yes, it was IN THE WATER with him). He struggled to get the wet box open, and answered “I AM asking you.”

I almost drowned. I was so completely and utterly shocked. Much crying and babbling ensued. Of course, I said “Absolutely, yes!” Ben finally got the ring on my finger and the remainder of the vacation was spent in total bliss. We called our parents immediately when we got back to the main beach at Maho Bay to share the good news. . . (which they were already expecting, as I was the only one kept in the dark.)

Knowing no one in St. Thomas, we shared our good news with the old man who had earlier taken our picture and the woman who sold us our ticket on the car ferry. We spent the next 2 days in total romantic bliss enjoying St. Thomas. Lauren couldn’t get over the surprise of the engagement and Ben walked around with a goofy grin on his face (which, come to think of it, may have been codeine-induced).

While Ben and Lauren hadn’t begun to THINK about the details of the wedding, Gail (Lauren’s mom) had been planning the event in her head for 25 years. Understandably, she was ready to hammer out the nitty-gritty details as the newly engaged couple stepped off the escalator in the Atlanta airport. Michael (Lauren’s dad, and cutest man to ever live) was standing with a hand-made poster that read “Congrats Lauren & Ben” with a ring drawn in the center. The pictures of Michael waiting in the airport with the sign are priceless!

While we loved every minute of the trip, we are most happy to report that even in the months since returning home, the ecstatic feeling and goofy smiles have yet to wear off :)


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