There have been 53 King family Christmas Eve parties in a row. Each one was so unique it would make a good story. The very first one was so sweet and dear to me that I shall never forget it. I was the oldest child, so the first one to leave the nest, and the first to have a child. On December 24, 1946, we went to my fatherís home, taking our 12-day-old son. My 11-year-old brother, Jimmy, had done some planning. He had arranged a larger chair where he could see all the activities, then asked to hold the baby. He quietly cared for Harold throughout the evening. I felt sorry for his twin sister, Joyce, who hardly got a turn at babysitting.

The real star of the party was my father. He wore such a pleased expression, one would think he had just been elected. He was all over the place, helping mother with the food, receiving packages and welcoming guests. His oldest son, Bob, was safely home from the Navy at the end of World War II. His first grandchild had been born with 10 fingers and 10 toes.

I heard him telling one of the guests that the reason his family meant so much to him was because of the fact that he never had a family. You see, on April 7, 1903, an Arkansas tornado splintered the King familyís large log house. The storm killed all the family and two guests. My father, Paul King, was a 10-month-old baby. He was rolled in a blanket, tangled against a thorn tree, alive and unhurt, except for a small bruise on one eye. Thatís Pop in the photo above, being held the day after the storm by the wife of the doctor who found him. "I was meant to be here," was his favorite saying.

The 1946 party was perfect. So was the one the following year, and so on. Each party was filled with love and good things. There would be a newlywed couple, or a new baby welcomed nearly every year. Paul King The coming together grew larger every time. Hardly anyone ever missed going to Popís, as he was called, on Christmas Eve. They came from North Dakota, Washington, New York, Vermont, Texas, Louisiana and many other places. The mountains of packages peaked higher and more and more tables were spread with holiday goodies every Christmas Eve.

Pop asked us to continue meeting after he was no longer with us. He died in 1990. The party has continued, in the home of the children. Thank you, God, for our family. But most of all, we thank you for Your Son.

The author is a member of the White County Historical Society who lives at Roosevelt. She presented her fatherís remarkable story in the 2000 edition of White County Heritage, the Societyís annual historical publication.