There’s no doubt about it, those “elderly people” who used to tell me that the older you get, the more you reflect back on special memories from days gone by. Most recently, that happened from Christmas times gone by.

For example, I recently remember an old-fashioned Christmas tree and toy display in a rejuvenated small town opera house. There, wrapped around an old pop-bellied stove, was a Lionel electric train that passed underneath an aluminum tunnel decorated with trees and mountainsides.

This triggered memories of the Christmas Eve when we came home from the church Christmas program, complete with sack of chocolate drops, hard tack candy and canes passed out as we left the church.

Naturally, I was so excited to walk into our living room, warmed by the crackling fire wood in our stove to see what was beneath our pine Christmas tree.

There it was, the Lionel train mounted on plywood, complete with cross lights, tunnel and other things to decorate the train track and train.

Speaking of that “live tree,” the hardest part was securing the tree in the stand where we poured water each morning to keep the tree fresh. I will never forget the day my dad had an extremely difficult time securing the tree, but it finally happened.

“There,” he said, “I finally have the tree secured.”

And then it happened, before my dad could crawl from underneath the tree, our old tiger cat came flying through the living room, took a bounding leap to the top of the tree and the rest is a tense history.

Christmas for our first child’s Christmas, Julie, happened in my parents’ home in Berne, Indiana. Everyone was excited to see how our seven-month-old would react to her first Christmas presents. It didn’t take long to see. She unwrapped all of the beautiful gifts, laid them aside, and romped in the paper, her favorite gift of that first Christmas.

One of the real humorous moments of Christmas came one year when one of the adults slipped in a can of limburger cheese to our annual Christmas gathering. Everyone in the room knew that no one despised that cheese more than dear “Aunt Luetta.” So it only made sense that two-year-old cousin Ronnie would run to her with that cheese, hold it under her nose, and say, “hey wetta, want some cheese?” Her reaction brought the day’s laugh.

With the merging of two families after Joyce and I were married, Christmas was sometimes spent with her family in New Jersey, where Grandpa Jacobson had a train craze of his own. One year when we were there, he spent most of our Christmas playing with his train antics with the kids while we were there.

Of course, some of the unique family memories of New Jersey Christmases included trips to see decorations in downtown New York City, the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall and family snacks (such as lutefisk, despised by the youth) and Swedish cookies and candy. Numerous side trips usually accompanied these trips.

Probably the most endearing childhood family trip was our annual Christmas shopping trip to downtown Fort Wayne. We would park across from the large light display of Santa Claus, jingling in downtown, the huge Christmas wreath, and in a spot to grab supper at the Hobby House Restaurant.

Most of our shopping would be done at Murphy’s Dimes Store. At a point, my dad would take me to Coney Island Hotdog for a snack. It was during that time that my mother would pick up the gifts and hide them in the trunk for their transport to the family tree.

Undoubtedly, the most tender Christmas of all-time occurred during the season of Christmas, 1990, when the New Jersey family and my parents joined our family for a great Joyce-prepared dinner at our Michigan home. Fortunately, there was nearly a foot of snow on the ground. The neighbor down the road brought her sleigh and horses and gave our family an old-fashioned sleigh ride.

Prior to opening the gifts, Jason said, “I want grandpa to pray and so he prayed, thanking God for the gifts, for each other and mostly for the gift of Christ so that we might have the gift of eternal life in Him.

Many special moments happened that Michigan Christmas. Julie played the piano, Jason played with his new toys, Sandi mingled with her mother, grandmother and New Jersey family. It was a very special Christmas together.

In the evening, we went for a ride to view lights. When my parents left to drive back down to Berne, my dad squeezed my hand and said, “I love you, son.”

Three days later, it all came together. We received a phone call informing us that my dad (Harold Langham) was going to spend the rest of his Christmas in Heaven. I thought about my dad’s prayer on Christmas Eve, a real legend in my Christmas memories.