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Old flame walks back into town and into Mama's living room

As life stretches on, it is always a blessing to share a history with those who know you well. It is a bond that cannot be fabricated, for it is created by the times and stories you mutually share over many years.

Mama called one day. I was talking to my agent who said, "Do you need to get that?"

"No," I replied when I saw the number on caller ID.

Then my cell phone rang and I was alarmed since she never called my cell. I quickly finished my conversation and called her immediately. When I heard the lilting, gleefulness of her voice, I knew something was up.

"I have something I want to tell you," she gushed.

"What?" I asked warily.

"Guess what?" She paused then announced dramatically. "He came."

The moment I heard the words, I knew. My mind spun back many years to a broken heart and the endless days and nights when I had pined for him to call. It was always Mama's habit to give me my messages as soon as I walked in the door. That night, she said nothing and I, dejected after three weeks of no news, shuffled off to my bedroom.

On my dresser was a note in Mama's sprawling hand-writing: Guess what? He called.

It was probably one of the happiest moments of my life, the kind of unabashed joy for which we wish as we grow older. I still have that note.

"Guess what? He came," told me that the reason for that long ago heartache was sitting there in Mama's den. For some reason, my old boyfriends have always had more affection for Mama than for me.

"Are you serious? Is he there now?" For those kind of intricate bonds can speak in code, skipping the facts such as names.

She laughed. "Yes, he is. C'mon over and see us."

I settled down on Mama's sofa and smiled. "So, you must be out of anything to do if you've come here to visit."

He banged his head against the back of the rocker and rolled his eyes. "I knew you would say that. I knew it'd be the first thing out of your mouth. I predicted it."

Mama grinned and nodded. "He did."

I shrugged but couldn't resist a smile because it felt so right for all of us to be together in that den again, sharing our mutual stories of a time, mostly happy, so long ago.

"Do you remember that night that all Ronda fed you for supper was greens beans and cornbread?" Mama asked, cutting her eyes over at me. "We had gone to revival and I had a refrigerator full of food but she only gave you what I left on the stove."

And thus the stories continued for a while.

Later that evening, I said to Karen, my best friend who has traveled the winding roads of those years with me, "Guess who came to see Mama today?"

She gasped. "You're kiddin' me! Really? Oh my, I remember how bad he hurt you."

Then she began recalling some of the less lovely details of the falling apart. And, to be quite honest, it was all his fault. Like a best friend should be, she was still was indignant and protective after all these years.

"It was terrible," she said.

But instead of feeling sad for that time long ago, a wonderful feeling crept over me.

"Isn't it wonderful that we share such a history?" I asked, thinking not only of Karen, but of Mama and him as well. "We go back so far that we know everything about each other. The good times and the tough ones."

I hung up the phone, remembering the man who broke my heart and the two women who had nursed me through it.

Guess what? I smiled.

Ronda Rich is a best-selling Southern author. Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com.