Twelve-year-old Ryan Blank handed 12-year-old Anna Pens a note one day while they passed in the hall at Pikesville Middle School.
“Will you be my girlfriend,” it read. “Circle yes or no.”
Anna circled “yes” and handed the note back to a nervous Ryan later that day.
It was official, but as most middle school romances go, it lasted just a week or two, and they barely spoke to each other.
In high school, they were friends. They called each other and went out for a bite to eat after school, but they didn’t run with the same group of friends. Both dated other people, and they lost touch when Ryan left for the College of Charleston (S.C.) in 2003.
More than four years later, after eight months of study in Amsterdam, Ryan returned home and enrolled at Towson University for his final year.
He called Anna, also a student at Towson, to see how she was doing. They went out with groups of friends, but Ryan realized he wanted more.
He invited Anna to dinner during the spring of 2007. He was dressed up; Anna noticed.
They went to Liberatore’s in Timonium. Ryan ordered a bottle of wine, and Anna realized this was different. They began dating officially soon after.
It took Anna a while to adjust to their changed status. Then, Ryan moved back to California, where he had spent much of his first 12 years. After a year of long-distance dating, Anna moved west to be with Ryan. After a few months, they drove back to Baltimore for good.
On Father’s Day 2012, all of their families gathered. This included Ryan’s parents, Barry and Gayle Blank and Dan and Debbie Lemmerman, and Anna’s parents, Vlad and Larisa Pens, as well as the couple’s siblings and grandparents.
After requesting photos from Anna of her and her father, Ryan had put together a video montage for the holiday. After a few photos, the shots changed to pictures of Anna and Ryan as youngsters, including pictures from their days at Pikesville Middle School. Bruno Mars’ “Marry You” played in the background. When the video finished, Ryan dropped to one knee and proposed.
Rabbi Scott Nagel officiated at their Oct. 5, 2013 traditional wedding. They shared personally written vows before 220 friends and family members.
The joyous reception featured a band, a disc jockey and a dance choreographed by Ryan set to Justin Bieber’s “Baby.” He and his friends delighted the crowd, especially Anna.
One of Ryan’s favorite memories of that day was their time hoisted above the crowd while in the chairs.
“I remember looking at her, seeing her smile,” said the 28-year-old entrepreneur who works in his family’s real estate business, Resource Title. “I was the happiest person ever.”
“I just have that feeling that we are beshert,” said Anna, also 28. “He makes me happy, and we laugh a lot. There’s no one else I’d rather be with.”
Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email Linda.Esterson@verizon.net.