The Legend of the MonkeyDog had to be passed down to me, as it began about three years before I met Jeff and Cheryl, when I was a 9-year-old terrorizing Dallastown in roller skates and they were still newlyweds who were just getting their start.
It was 1987, their first Christmas as husband and wife, and resources were tight. For all the big hair between them, they didn't have a single Christmas ornament.
Cheryl, ever the problem solver, came across an ad in the Sunday paper's Parade magazine, touting 100 Christmas ornaments for $9.99 plus shipping and handling.
"I was like, 'Well, we don't have any so that's a good deal,'" she told me a couple weeks ago, sitting on their living room floor beside Jeff. "Then it came, Chris, and it was in a box that was this big..."
She used her hands to make the shape of a box about 5 by 5 inches.
"I was like, 'Okay, there's a hundred of something in here?'"
Even in 1987, you couldn't get 100 hundred decent Christmas ornaments for 10 bucks.
They were all small wooden ornaments that sort of looked like the by-way-of-television interpretation of Christmas through the eyes of someone who hadn't ever celebrated it but had heard about What Happens in America.
Oddity: One of the ornaments was a small, ambiguous animal, perhaps intended to be a reindeer or, for whatever reason, a cow.
It had the "head of a monkey," Cheryl recalled, "and the butt like a dog."
They named it the MonkeyDog, and they hung the ornaments on their tree and laughed their dog-sides off.
But as some of the strangest things do, the MonkeyDog became an instant and highly celebrated tradition. It became a reminder that, though they haven't always had money, they could laugh and love each other just the same.
That year she made a card for him, though on this day they disagreed about whether it was the only thing Jeff had gotten for Christmas that year.
The outside of the card said, "O come let us adore him," and on the inside was...a pop-up MonkeyDog.
"You laughed so hard," she told Jeff. "We always had such fun with that."
And he said, "We still do."
-- Reach Christina Kauffman at email@example.com.
MonkeyDog Sugar Cookies
1 cup butter, softened (not melted)
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract
3¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
An old metal cookie cutter forced into the shape of an ambiguous animal, shooting for something that looks like both a monkey and a dog.
Mix butter with sugar, eggs, vanilla and almond extract in a large bowl until fluffy.
In a second large bowl, combine flour with baking powder, baking soda and salt; gradually stir into the sugar mixture until well blended.
Cover bowl with cellophane and chill in refrigerator for one hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Roll dough to 1/3-inch thick on a lightly floured surface.
Press deformed MonkeyDog cutter into dough, using a small dowel to create a circular hole if you wish to use the cookies as ornaments.
Place cookies 2 inches apart on a non-stick cookie sheet.
Bake 4 to 6 minutes.