Leah Ingram and Michael Soutter. Photography by Owen Jones.
Leah Ingram first noticed Michael Soutter driving a company pickup at the old Jack in the Box on Northwest Highway, where all the kids hung out.
“He was different from anyone that I had met,” Leah says. “He was a little bit on the wild side back then.”
It was a whirlwind romance for the Lake Highlands High School class of ‘76 and ‘77 graduates. They talked about getting married after four months of dating. Their parents were against it.
Everything changed after Leah found out she was pregnant with Michael’s baby. Michael heard Leah was planning to marry someone else, and Leah thought Michael was leaving because she was pregnant. Both stories were completely false.
“That was pretty much what came between us, but neither of us knew that until 40 years later,” Leah says.
Leah placed their daughter up for adoption in May 1978. Michael and Leah eventually married other people. Michael had two daughters, and Leah had a son and a daughter. They both had daughters named Amanda. Waylon Jennings’s song “Amanda” was a favorite of both.
THEIR ADVICE: If it feels right or you think that’s what you want to do, then pursue it. Don’t beat around the bush too long because we’re not promised tomorrow.
Michael later divorced and ended up calling Leah’s parents’ home in East Texas, but Leah had just remarried two weeks before the call. She had another son. Michael later married for the second time as well.
“I always wondered,” Michael says. “You always had the what-ifs if we stayed together, what would have happened? If we would have listened to ourselves and not other people, what would have happened?”
In 2015, Leah’s second marriage ended after 27 years. She looked Michael up on Facebook — who had been single again for 10 years — and tracked down his home.
“I knocked on the door, and he said he never answers, but this time he did,” Leah says. “All the old feelings came rushing back for both of us.”
After a few dates, Leah knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life with Michael.
“I had closed off that part of my heart and didn’t let anybody else in,” she says. “That was the spot just for him.”
In March 2017 after dinner at Campisi’s, Michael proposed in the Jack in the Box, now White Rock Coffee, parking lot where they first met 40 years ago.
“I think as soon as I turned on the street that led up to Jack in the Box, I think she knew what was going on,” Michael says. “I pulled in a parking spot there and reached into the console and handed her the box.”
The two were married on Mustang Island on May 30, 2017, the same day their daughter was born 39 years ago.
“He wanted that day to become special to me instead of a day of sadness,” Leah says. Three years ago, Leah began tracking down their daughter, but came up empty on the first try. She is struggling with how to address her daughter in a letter.
“That’s the only thing that kept me from writing a letter because I don’t know exactly how to address her,” Leah says. “Once I say ‘Dear so and so,’ I could go on and on and on. I intend to do it, I just haven’t.”