Sharlene Loughins McGivery (left) moments after reuniting with Sandy Hoyt, the Edgewater, Md., mom whose family sponsored Sharlene on a trip from strife-torn Belfast in 1986. (John Kelly/The Washington Post)

It could have been awkward. Sandy and Bob Hoyt hadn’t seen the girl in close to 30 years, and now they would be cooped up in the same house for an entire weekend. Would the conversation seem stilted? Would they run out of things to talk about?

“It was the exact opposite,” Sandy said.

Sharlene Loughins McGivery is a Belfast girl the Hoyts hosted in 1986 through a program that brought kids from strife-torn Northern Ireland to the Washington area. Sharlene credits that summer in Edgewater, Md., with changing her life. She had lost touch with the Hoyts, but in September I was able to reunite them.

And Friday, Sharlene drove down from Toronto, where she lives with her husband, Chris, to visit the Hoyts.

“It was a fun, fun weekend,” said Sandy, a retired teacher, mother of three and grandmother of one. “Everybody had a great time. We have assimilated two families. I think it’s a relationship that will continue forever. I can’t believe what an incredible young lady she is.”

Sharlene, Chris and the Hoyts spent the weekend poring over old photo albums and stopping by haunts that Sharlene had been taken to in 1986, when she was a skinny 11-year-old from a troubled Protestant Belfast neighborhood. It was a weekend filled with laughter.

“It was very weird because it was like you had seen them maybe months ago,” Sharlene said of the Hoyts. “You didn’t think that that much time had passed since we’d seen each other. It was like being reunited with a family again.”

Sharlene and Chris own a condo in Myrtle Beach that they visit with their two kids every year. Next summer on their way south they’ll stop in Edgewater.

It’s funny how there are some people we meet with whom we forge a connection, even in the unlikeliest of circumstances. Sharlene told me she likes to collect quotations. Here’s one of her favorites: “It’s by chance we met, by choice we became friends.”

Name that panda

I fear it’s likely that our new female giant panda cub will be named after a cross-dressing, sword-wielding Disney princess. When I saw that Mulan was one of the choices in the National Zoo’s Name the Giant Panda online poll, I figured the fix was in.

I liked the 1998 movie okay. Not as good as “The Little Mermaid” or “Aladdin” but better than “Pocahontas” and “The Emperor’s New Groove.” (I spent a lot of my 30s watching Disney cartoon musicals. Sometimes my daughters even watched with me.)

As pleasant as the name is — Mulan was a fifth-century Chinese warrior; it’s also the name of the magnolia flower — I hope it doesn’t emerge victorious. The Mouse gets enough publicity.

While “Mulan” — the movie is probably ancient history to today’s crop of panda cubs — besotted kids, I’m guessing their mothers (and fathers) will vote for it in droves. Resist the urge. Instead, I beg you to vote for Bao Bao. It may have the most uninteresting meaning — “precious, treasure” — but it’s the most fun to say: Bao Bao!

Vote through Nov. 22 at

Get ready to ‘Rumble’

Democracy isn’t always pretty. Also, people are idiots. How else to explain how the late, great D.C. guitarist Fred Lincoln “Link” Wray is hovering near the bottom of online fan voting for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When last I checked, Nirvana, KISS and Deep Purple held the top three spots. Fine, but Link was third from last, besting only Chic and the Meters and behind N.W.A., LL Cool J, and Hall and Oates.

You are, I hope, wondering what Chic, LL Cool J and N.W.A. have to do with rock-and-roll. They may have done what they did very well, but I don’t think it was rock-and-roll. And Hall and Oates may have rolled, but they didn’t rock.

Link Wray rocked like the San Andreas fault. Who can forget the great scene in “It Might Get Loud” when Jimmy Page — Rock Hall Classes of ’92 (Yardbirds) and ’95 (Led Zeppelin) breaks into a goofy grin after putting Link’s gritty instrumental “Rumble” on his turntable? Pete Townshend of the Who (inducted in 1990) once said, “If I had never heard ‘Rumble,’ I would never have picked up a guitar.”

Rock fans of Washington, I implore you, go to and vote for Link Wray.

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