Panorama Welcomes My Unknown Cousin

Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. October 2018

In a few days, I’d be meeting a 2nd cousin who I didn’t know even existed. Our maiden names are both Italian: Barbera, which is not a common surname here in the USA.

There are many options of where we can meet on Panorama campus, but some are regularly used on Monday afternoons. I wanted a place other than our Quinault apartment. I wanted her to observe the friendly residents and their goings on, and yet not be in an isolated room where we might feel claustrophobic.

I prayed. Lord, You’ve never let me down. I know this mercenary, but You know the perfect spot for us to meet my cousin Nicole and her husband, Bruce, when they come tomorrow. I place this situation into your hands and I thank You in advance.

That evening, I observed a crowd leaving our restaurant. That’s it! The Panorama Seventeen51 Restaurant & Bistro! However, would they accommodate, understand, and allow us to occupy a large table for the four of us with room for our memorabilia and photos? We’d have access to meals, snacks, drinks—whatever—with no need to prepare them and clean up.

I ran upstairs to our apartment to gather and write down my thoughts and questions. I called our restaurant. Restaurant employee Erin seemed as excited as I was. “How fun, Mary Jo. We could push two tables together in a T-shape in the Bistro. You could be away from other tables and have a good time. We’d be nearby to wait on you when you are ready. You may have all afternoon to visit.”

The set-up was perfect.

We enjoyed our lunch, dessert, and drinks while sharing photos.

Nicole had pictures of herself and her little brother as youngsters standing at the side of a large inboard motor boat with the business name on the side in bold letters: Barbera Sports.

I belted, “Hey, that’s our boat!” Dad (her cousin) had taken the picture at the sporting goods store back in the late 1970s.

In several photos of my grandfather, Barbera Sr. (her uncle), I recognized the wallpaper in rooms at his birthday party, but I couldn’t remember where I had seen it. I took a cellphone image of the page in her album, and I sent it to my sister Jerri. She was excited, “That’s my house.”

Members of Nicole’s family, including her 80-year-old mother, called from out of town saying they wanted to come to Panorama to meet us. What a privilege and compliment! I could go on and on about our several hours of fun. Our families know Panorama is available with the hospitality to handle our next family reunions. Everyone can relax and let it happen—repeatedly!

How did Nicole track me down?

She had traced my name through ThurstonTalk online, which aired March 16, 2018. It ran a story by Anne Paxton Hammond of me and my book, Convent to Catwalk. The story was titled “Mary Jo Shaw: How a Nun Became a Fashion Model and Mom.”

Seek and maybe ye shall find an unknown relative. And thanks to Panorama!