It was my idea to go on a getaway to Big Bear Lake.
A small city nestled high up in the San Bernadino Mountains, I first heard of the beautiful ski resort town soon after we moved to Southern California.
A few weeks back I mentioned to Phil that I wanted to get out of the city for a weekend. We haven’t yet had the time or the means to really explore outside of Los Angeles, so there are still a ton of places I’d like to visit throughout California. Because of the time of year, I thought it would be good for us to get some crisp, fresh air and be out in nature. Because it’s just two and a half hours away, this would also be really convenient.
Earlier this week, I pulled the trigger and made the arrangements for us to stay up in Big Bear Lake for a night. The thought of hiking, horseback riding and shopping in the villages small boutiques all sounded fun to me, but if we just hung out in the hotel room’s jacuzzi tub and sat near the fire, that would also be perfectly fine with me.
We woke up early Saturday morning, grabbed some coffee, hopped in the car and headed east for the mountains. After an hour into our car ride, Phil clued me in to the fact that he had a “couple of surprises” planned for us. Since he’s kind of horrible at keeping secrets, he told me that their first of my surprises was a couples’ massage in Big Bear Village. It just so happened that it was exactly what I wanted to hear.
The winding drive up to Big Bear was stunningly beautiful: We were surrounded by mountains covered in massive pine trees. Because the sky was clear and it was sunny, it was all that you could see for miles.
On the way up to Big Bear Lake
When we reached Big Bear, we had an hour before our massage appointment, so we had some hot soup and sandwiches at a small pizzeria and then explored The Village. There was a lot of touristy shops, but there were some gems in the mix. Inside of an old fashioned candy store, I found Cinnamon Bears, a vegan friendly gummy that I haven’t come across since I’ve left Michigan. I also got myself a dress at a small boutique.
Our massage was at The Village Spa and Wellness Center, one of the most beautiful facilities that I have ever been to. (Ahem…I’ve had my fair share of massages in the last year.) The staff asked which areas were troubling me most (shoulders, neck and back) and spent most of the time working out all of my knots and stress. All of the while, Native American flute music played. I was in heaven for a full 90 minutes.
Afterward, in a bit of a daze, we wandered around the village more and got ourselves cider chai lattes at one of the local coffee shops.
Because it was pretty cold in Big Bear (in the 20s!) we soon checked into our hotel and took full advantage of the hot tub and fireplace.
When the sun began to set, Phil encouraged me to get my winter gear back on so we could head out for my next surprise: a horse-drawn carriage ride around the lake. The white carriage was a classic Victorian coach that had been decked out for the holidays, detailed with holly and brass bells. The driver took us for a 45 minute ride around the lake, drove us by some of the multi-million dollar log cabin homes and throughout the village. The best part was that we could see stars twinkling across the crystal clear winter night sky as well as all of the Christmas lights throughout Big Bear. We probably would have been freezing if it weren’t for the huge furry blanket that we cuddled up beneath.
Afterward, Phil took me to dinner at a small, charming little restaurant a stone’s throw away from our hotel. It wasn’t a long walk from the carriages, but we were still freezing when we arrived. To get warm, we sipped ginger ale and whiskey cocktails and sat close to each other in our booth. For dinner, Phil had stuffed salmon and I had a garlic veggie pasta.
When we were finished eating, Phil wanted to take me somewhere up higher, he said, so we could get a closer look at the stars and a better view of the mountains. We spent an hour driving around and unfortunately, we never found a scenic vantage point that worked well in the dark. I took note of his persistence, thought it was strange, but didn’t dwell on it.
We headed back to the hotel so that we could warm up by the fire. It was some time later, after we had enjoyed each others company and sipped on some champagne, that Phil told me had something to give me. I assumed it was a special early Christmas gift and sat down on the edge of the bed.
He asked me if I remembered the first present that I ever gave him. I did–a notebook that I decoupaged for him back when he was my editor at CM-Life. It’s an item that he has told me many times meant the world to him–he still has it and uses it.
That’s when he pulled out a notebook that he had decoupaged especially for me, something that he had never done before. It had my picture on it and words and images that reminded him of how he felt about me. I opened it up and on the first page he had hand written “I love you with everything that I am.”
I tried to turn the page to flip through the rest of the journal, but it was stuck. When I realized that the pages had been taped shut, I pulled it open. There was a diamond ring wedged inside of a shallow hole that had been cut into the paper.
That’s when Phil went down on his knee and asked me to marry him. When we talk about it now, Phil said that I screamed “WHAT!?”, but I only remember saying “yes” before bursting into tears and sobbing into his shoulder.
Phil and I had discussed our engagement with my parents while we were home in Michigan this past November, so it’s not like I didn’t know that this would happen. I just didn’t expect it to happen so soon. Phil told me it probably wasn’t going to happen until after his book came out this Spring.
I had accidentally destroyed my phone earlier this week and so I kept using his to text friends and make calls. He was very weird about this at times–and I just assumed he was concerned about potentially spoiling a Christmas gift. Looking back, he was behaving strangely, but again, I just assumed he was freaking out between work and the holidays.
I’m still just kind of speechless about the whole thing.