Q: Why do I tell stories? A: I had no choice.

I come from a long line of story tellers. Joining them was a matter of survival.

My dad told jokes for as far back as I can remember. My brothers and sisters followed in his footsteps, and these days family dinners often finish with a marathon of jokes. As soon as one punch line is delivered someone will say, “And that reminds me of the one…”

Way back when, my older sister and I (the girls), along with the next two younger brothers (the boys), were expected to do the dishes. We hated it. Maybe the intense dislike came from the fact that my parents picked this time to retire to the living room where they watched TV along with my youngest sister and brother (the babies). We’d dilly a bit, then turn to dallying. I think we could make the ten minute task last more than an hour. To help pass the time my sister and I would take turns telling stories. Often it was a fairy tale, which may have been significantly altered if we really didn’t know the actual story.

Leave it to Beaver dinnerAll six of the siblings viewed dinner time as an opportunity to grab everyone’s attention for a few minutes. We’d stand in the spot light telling the tales of our days. We generally concurred the stories were better if they were funny, and the competition was fierce and hilarity reigned, a lot like the TV show, “Leave it to Beaver.” I suggested we could have a TV show called “Dinner with the Schooleys”.

We’d get our material from any source, and we weren’t too proud to copy. Sometimes when my babysitting jobs lasted later into the night The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson would come on. I’d memorize the stand-up routines of comedians. If the family particularly liked one bit of shtick they’d request a rerun. The one I remember being asked to perform again and gain was a Richard Pryor versionPryor and Carsonn of a fairy tale. It was complete with sound effects and actions like galloping, and cupping one’s ear for close listening, all of which I faithfully replicated. The best line was, “Hark! I hear someone coming. Perhaps I’ll hide behind a rock or a tree.” Following a little later, line was, “Here I am, hiding behind a rock or a tree.” My mother would collapse in laughter. Some years later she told me it was because he didn’t know if he was behind the rock or if it was a tree. All that time I didn’t get the get the punch line.

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