The rosary, then Dallas. My sister wanted to run away to Southfork

Family Fortunes: Out came the suitcase after she had a disagreement with our mother

‘My sister wanted to leave home and set up camp with her philandering fantasy foster father, JR Ewing, and his charismatic yet highly strung wife, Sue Ellen’

‘My sister wanted to leave home and set up camp with her philandering fantasy foster father, JR Ewing, and his charismatic yet highly strung wife, Sue Ellen’

 

“Pack your bags, we’re heading for Southfork,” exclaimed my 11-year-old sister, four years my senior at the time, following a brief exchange with our mother the day before, over not completing household chores.

I couldn’t believe it: the sensible one, the logical one and the often obsequious one was now willing to leave home and set up camp with her philandering fantasy foster father, JR Ewing, and his charismatic yet highly strung wife, Sue Ellen.

My sister developed this obsession with the Ewings as soon as my parents granted her permission to watch them. Saturday night ritual, 8pm: silence domineered the atmosphere in our home as the rosary was recited by my mother followed by the odd scolding or dirty look from my father as we desperately tried to control the seismic waves of giggles that would engulf us.

An hour and a half later, JR would be next in line after the rosary, with the usual Saturday night bath in between. All squeaky clean and smelling of talcum powder, fire lit, the tune to Dallas would send a commotion of frenzy and excitement in our household. “RIGHT NOW, UP TO BED THE PAIR OF YOU,” was the common deadly demand my brother and I would hear every Saturday night. We had no licence to stay up, age being our obstacle. What really bugged me was the smug look on our sister’s face as she puffed up cushions to aid her comfort in anticipation for the show.

Not being allowed to watch Dallas added more to our temptation and desperation. But my brother always had a plan. Plagued by curiosity as to why our sister was so engrossed by these characters, my brother and I nestled neatly behind the couch without making a sound. A sense of intrigue overcame us as Cliff Barnes and JR argued intensely, which caused my father and mother to have uncontrollable fits of laughter. “What’s so funny?” I’d ask my brother quietly behind the couch only to be shown a finger over his lip to usher my silence.

My sister idolised the Ewings and their lavish lifestyles. Sipping on strawberry milkshakes while sunbathing by the pool at their ranch in Southfork, was a stark contrast to cleaning floors, washing dishes and taking out ashes from the fireplace, chores that she disliked but never complained about as she was paid in chocolate or shopping trips to Mullingar. Sometimes I would see her in an almost trance-like state, knowing right well that her mind was elsewhere, probably in Southfork.

So out came the suitcase after she had a disagreement with our mother. We didn’t pack much, just two swimsuits. “Shouldn’t we at least call JR and tell him we’re coming?” I asked. “No,” she replied. “We’ll say nothing and surprise him.”

As my mother went off to work that day, we went to our father and asked him if he was willing to take us to the airport and subsequently told him our plans. “No problem,” he replied. “Listen, I can leave you both to the train station and you can make your way from there.” I looked towards my sister for reassurance, but all I saw was a tear falling slowly down her cheek as reality kicked in. The smirk on my father’s face was the giveaway.

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