Monday 24th August, 2009: Fossano, Italy
L-R: Kate Paneros, Eliana Panero, Mario Panero, Mark Paneros, Monica Panero, Bronwyn Paneros
What do you think of when you hear the words Family Reunion? Is it smelly old aunts pinching your cheeks? Checking out your attractive second-cousin? Having to listen to your Grandpa tell the story about when he got his driver's licence?
A reunion really means to reunite, to get everyone together again. But what if you've never met? Not as daunting as Meet the Parents, because they're family - they have to like you. But driving to Fossano in our rented Fiat on Monday night, that was exactly what we were going to do. For the first time, we would meet our relatives, the Panero family.
Not having spoken English since high school, Monica Panero, together with Mario, had researched the family tree and organised dinner for us. She invited Eliana Panero, and others, but as it was summer holidays many were away on vacation. This did nothing to dampen the effect of such an event - upon meeting Monica, my Dad was visibly moved. Monica's father and my Dad's grandfather were cousins, and this was the closest Dad had ever been to his roots. From one black and white photo, to being in the same room as family on the other side of the world, I'd have to think my Dad was pretty pleased with the result.
There was much discussion about who was married to whom, who had which children and who was living where. Throughout dinner, another feast of local Piedimontese dishes, we got to know the people we'd come to meet. Eliana brought out a huge map of her family tree, and we filled in the question marks on ours, learning more dates and occupations and family gossip. When Francesco's father Guglielmo returned to Italy from Australia, he lived in a house built by his brother Mario, Eliana's father. She offered to show us this house the next day.
After dinner we were joined by a journalist for the local Fossano newspaper. Mario recounted the tale and we broke open the Spumante to celebrate. The following image is what I have so far of the Panero Tree, covering 6 generations. It would seem Francesco was a popular name for the boys! Not all details are here, as we are still compiling some information but it's a good start.
Thank God for the internet.
The Panero Family Tree (in draft format)