In an ordinary American neighborhood in a typical American house, a family like no other celebrates Christmas, reports CBS News Correspondent Kelly Cobiella.
They're the Lemons: 10 girls and 11 boys, toddlers to teenagers, all growing up under one roof; an instant family forged from tragedy and because of a promise.
"I didn't hesitate, my husband didn't hesitate, my children didn't hesitate," says Debra Lemon, to triple the size an already large family overnight.
A year ago, Debra Lemon's gravely ill sister made one final request: that Debra take in her 13 children and two grandchildren. The answer would change her family's life in ways they couldn't imagine.
But for Debra, husband Lamont and their six kids it was simple – it was family.
"There would have been doubt and fear if they hadn't been with me," Debra Lemon says. "It would have been like double jeopardy. I would have lost my sister and my nieces and nephews all over again. I didn't want to go through that again."
This extraordinary family lived quietly, out of the public eye for nearly a year after welcoming in their 15 new kids. That all changed when word got out they might be evicted from their three-bedroom apartment.
Help started to pour in. Their church found them a new, much bigger house. And Wednesday night, a Christmas Eve present no one expected: $10,000 donated for a down payment on a permanent place for the Lemons to grow together.
"We don't see them as nieces and nephews we just see them as sons and daughters," says Lamont Lemon. "Just family."
But maybe not the one they planned.
A year later, though, Debra Lemon has no regrets.
"I can't imagine going back and not having them," she says. "To me it's a gain and you have to lose something to gain what's better."
And to remember what this Christmas is all about.
Copyright 2003 CBS. All rights reserved.