Child Labor Photos by Lewis Hine | The Memory Keeper
In June, Manning once again finds himself sitting at someone’s kitchen table, the clunky cassette recorder whirring in front of him. He’s found Ronald Paradis, Mamie’s son-in-law, still living in Worcester. Two of his daughters, Cheryl Szlyk and Deborah Begonis, are also sitting at the table, telling Joe what they remember of their grandmother. A few minutes into the interview, Deborah’s 27-year-old daughter, Jenn Ford, walks into the kitchen, and Manning stops short. “You probably don’t know this,” he says, “but you look exactly like your great-grandmother, Mamie.”
Manning has always harbored a hope that he might one day meet one of the Hine children in person, but he knows it isn’t likely. Even those photographed late in the project would be over 100 years old by now. But seeing Mamie’s face–the same eyes, the same mouth, the same earnest stare–reborn three generations later is soberingly close. As he drives home, he can’t shake the sensation that he’s just seen a ghost.
A few days later, he receives an e-mail from Jenn. At first she found the resemblance amusing, she says. Her father had always told her she had a Frenchman’s nose, and staring at the photos Manning had brought, she thought, Oh my God, I do get my honker from her. But she hasn’t been able to shake that haunting sensation, either, and she’s writing Manning for advice on how to get started doing family research of her own.
Jenn has never known anything about her great-grandmother. On the wall in her mother’s home is a picture of Mamie and her husband in an antique oval frame. She grew up in that house, passed that photo every day, but until she met Joe, she’d never questioned who those people were. Now she passes it and she thinks of the name Laberge. She doesn’t see just an old photo; she sees one moment in a long story that begins with a mill girl and ends with her own life, and when she thinks about all the hardships that came in between, she feels connected.
“It makes me proud,” she says, “to have that name in my blood.”