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Christmas tree ornaments: Touching holiday memories

  • "Tool Bench Ornaments," owned by Joyce Weick.

For most people, the box of Christmas ornaments that comes out of storage each December is a box of memories. Each ornament has a story and, hung together, they are the narrative of our lives and the history of our families.

For many people, one ornament or group of ornaments stands out from the others. It's the one that goes on first or last and gets special placement and special treatment. The act of unearthing it each year and hanging it on a secure bough connects us to a cherished person or an especially tender time.

Readers' Favorite Holiday Ornaments

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When a firestorm in July 1996 tore through the Sonoma Valley, Sharon Ponsford and Craig Jones were tragically in its path.

The Glen Ellen couple, then owners of Sonoma's Artisan Bakers, lost their home and everything in it, including their beloved Wheaten terrier Henry, and cats Zoe and Rufus.

Friends and community showered them with necessities. But it wasn't until much later that the couple realized they had also lost all of their Christmas ornaments.

One December day an employee entered Sharon's office with a small box that had been dropped off by an anonymous stranger. Inside was an unsigned card with the message, "I made these for you in memory of the three pets you lost earlier this year. Merry Christmas."

There were three golden eggs, one hand-painted with a picture of a dog and two with cats. It brought Ponsford to tears.

"Somehow the very fragile eggs have survived now for 15 years," Ponsford says. "We are always misty-eyed when we hang them on the tree, as they remind us of a very painful period in our lives and of our three lost friends. Now after 15 years our ornament box is full again, but none are quite as special as the three golden eggs."


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