It's funny how life works out. This time last year, I was looking forward to spending Christmas and New Year in the Hokianga.
My mum was looking forward to joining my husband and I at our holiday home as she loves the place, too. Although we have only stayed there infrequently since we bought it three years ago, every time I'm up there my shoulders come down from around my ears and settle where they should, around my shoulder blades, and my soul is happy.
My daughter's always been a city girl through and through. But now she's based in London and now she's a mother, she needs the Hoki on her return trips to New Zealand.
Last time she was here with baby Bart, we drove up to the Hoki the day after her arrival from London so she could introduce her son to New Zealand in the best possible way. My husband and I are constantly having discussions about when we should throw in the towel and leave the city life for the bliss of the Far North but, so far, we have settled for visits on saints days and public holidays as a kind of imperfect compromise.
When an email did the rounds asking for people who had bought holiday homes in the Hoki to release them to locals who needed places to live, my Catholic guilt went into overdrive. I offered up our place, and then festered with bad grace at the thought that I wouldn't be able to be there for Christmas.
Our tenants are lovely - locals who are building their own place and who are key members of the community. They offered to move out so our family could have our Hokianga Yuletide but I refused. The place was theirs until it wasn't. If I was going to give it up, I'd give it up until I could reclaim it again.
A few months later, my daughter rang from London to say she was pregnant with her second child and was due in late November. With Bart not even 2 and a husband who travelled away for work, she really needed me to come to London if I could possibly make it happen. Incredibly, I could.
I'm on a year's sabbatical from work. Although I had a number of special projects on throughout the year, November and December were pretty much free.
I'll be here until the 28th. And even more special is that my mum, who is in her early 80s, decided to have a last hurrah and come to London with her fabulous cousin.
My husband, who hates flying, gritted his teeth and flew over, too. He's used up his annual leave so he's only here for 10 days. I know how hard that sacrifice was for him. But it means on Christmas Day, I will be surrounded by the people I love the most.
There will be four generations around the tree that my grandson chose and my mother and I helped him decorate. I'm of an age where the fact that the people I love the most are still alive and choose to be together matters more to me than anything in the world. And I'm so grateful.
My daughter keeps asking me what I want for Christmas. I can remember asking my mother the same thing when I was earning enough money to buy her something more than bath salts from the local chemist.
She kept saying the same thing I do. All I want for Christmas is what I have. My family around me. The fact that we're healthy, give or take a few snotty noses. That we're building memories that will be part of a personal and communal family legacy.
I thought the perfect Christmas was one that was spent in the Hokianga. Until I realised it's the people who make it, not the presents nor the place. I hope your Christmas is spent with the people you love too.