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Well, that’s different!  A year and a half ago at holiday time, I was on my own in Paris, thousands of miles away from anyone or anything familiar.  Last December, I’m decking halls in New York, Boston and Tampa with boughs of holly, hoping for a very merry holiday — and a magical new year.

For the last few decades, I was whom everyone came “home” to for Christmas… But now I wander and claim “home” wherever I am.  Must be a Passage.

I felt home in my little pied-à-terre in Paris and in my two-bedroom caravan in the middle of the Negev… I’m still subletting my apartment in NYC to an Aussie who’s calling my home his home — and here I am in my daughter Lynn’s house, where we all gather for the holidays, surrounded by her family and it sure feels like home to me, smitten as I am with her idyllic suburban setting, loving husband, adorable two boys and playful pup.  Picture-perfect made for the big fat guy in the bright red suit to come barreling down the chimney in to the bosom of our extended family, lovingly referred to by my uber-dramatic (and mostly depressed) 21-year old as “insane.”

She’s right, of course. Never mind the usual mix of redneck (them) and liberals (us), and the fact that my two oldest girls still aren’t talking to each other …what up’d the ante this year was the fact that my ex was coming to dinner — with his glam 20-years-younger, size-zero girlfriend (aka “Glamour Puss” or “GP“).

Everyone ran to greet them when they arrived, and then fluttered about, nervous and excited but nonetheless drawn to the handsome couple.  Watching that welcoming scene was just the excuse I needed to polish off my second glass of wine, a bowl of M&Ms and a few good-looking deviled eggs on my way to the dinner table.  That’s where I caught GP frowning at the main course: lasagna with meat sauce… apparently she doesn’t eat red meat –or pasta –or much of anything else, obviously.  I, on the other hand, dove right in, happily adding (oh no!) (Yes!) cheese to a plate full of nasty carbs with carne… Game on.

Over-eating in Lynne’s house has become an annual tradition in our family; we know going in that we’ll be a size bigger coming out — it’s just the way it is. “Rice crispy snack? Skittles? Or potato chips?Lynne offered her boys on their way out the door to run an errand with their Uncle Nick… “OR how about a banana?Nick suggested in a louder but happy tone as if he were offering PEZ… The boys weren’t buying it — they grabbed the chips.

There aren’t any politically correct words you can say out loud when your adult children (especially if they’re your step-children) load up their cabinets with everything you didn’t buy when they were growing up. We’re healthy eaters for the most part, exercise routinely… but when you’re surrounded by fast-food chains and an offering of donuts for breakfast, it’s hard to “just say no.” So we’ve given up: if you can’t beat them, join them.  Ok, so it’s also Christmas.

Talking about the no-no food may be forbidden — but I couldn’t help thinking about the fat content with every mischievous bite… especially when one guest, who happens to be the size of a toothpick, is sleeping with my old bed buddy. Uncomfortably, maybe, because she actually swallowed meat sauce with her two bites of pasta …but none-the-less, all eyes were on the connection (or disconnect) between he and me with her there.

My kids were nervous about the three of us being in the same room; it had been well over a year since I’d even seen him… longer, since he and I were together with the kids, in our officially divorced state.  I know (the kids don’t/not their business) that my ex was on a rampage last fall that cost me a few bucks in legal fees to finally resolve, so truth be told, I was more nervous than they were.  For starters, he’s been known to rage — and despite having the home-court advantage vis-à-vis the babe, I was barely holding my insecurities in check. (Betcha there wasn’t one extended family member at the table that wasn’t comparing her pre-menopausal complexion to my estrogen-depraved crow’s feet.)

But I actually got there a couple of days before they did, enjoyed my quality time with the kids and tried to stand back a bit to give him/them their time to schmooze. It was clearly a mature decision and an interesting exercise: being there, without stepping into conversations.  I’d say he/they appreciated it, but I don’t think anyone really noticed.

What was noticeable (to everyone, I’m pretty sure) was that the old dog (my ex) has learned new tricks… like entering the room with her, holding her hand, actually sitting next to her at the table and generally catering to her every whim. My only solace: there’s a price he’s paying for all that glam and they were dangling from her earlobes… Even that many Swarovski Crystals add up to a pretty penny when, as she announced to all, they were purchased at Henri Bendel’s.

And there I was, on my own, no sexy hot lover in tow, doing my best to look cool, calm and collected — and there were my kids, not only in their usual suck-up-to-daddy mode, but lovely to Glamour Puss too.  They’ve seen her many times before, of course, but not in front of me.

There is no Emily Post on this one.  We teach our children to respect their elders (ok, so she’s closer in age to my children than she is to their dad, but still…) and if my children are a reflection of me, I want them to engage, kindly, respectfully and smartly.  They did/they were –and I admit to a certain amount of parental joy in observing them.  Facing facts: Their dad and I have moved on — and I suppose after spending a couple of days over Christmas, all together, that was clear.

And that’s a good thing.

So as my ex’s babe looked on in horror, I happily plopped a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of my slice of home-made apple pie, looked around the room at each of my kids in various of stages of conversation with someone other than me — grandkids and grand-puppy… and smiled at the fact that this potpourri of “insane” folk is my family. I’m home. ‘Cause home is where the heart is and the heart has a tremendous capacity to love — so home has the potential to exist in a lot of places.

And anyone who wears a forlorn look of long-lost-love when asked “where’s home?” as if they’re wondering, if they ever had one, it was a long time ago …well, they’re undoubtedly looking at their present through crazy colored glasses and not giving enough credit to where they are now. Lovingly here, wherever they are, home.

NOTE TO SELF: Happy Holidays!