Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota
Clyde’s recent posts about DNA and birch logs made me think about these little carvings I have that came from my mother’s family from Hamburg, Germany.
The crabby water carrier and the farm animals and other figures were in my house all throughout my childhood. Mom would never let me play with them. I think some of them were children’s toys. Mom said she thought that some of them were sent from Hamburg by family in thanks for the food packages my grandma sent them during the war. She was pretty vague about it. She couldn’t even tell me how long she had them, or why she had them instead of my grandmother or other family members.
She also couldn’t tell me much about the water carrier. She said he had something to do with Hummels. I always thought she meant the porcelain child figures designed by the nun, Sr. Maria Hummel.
Well, That isn’t quite the whole story.
I now know that the water carrier figure was a real person who worked as a water carrier in Hamburg in the mid-19th century and who was noted for his nasty temper. He was given the nickname “Hans Hummel”. The word Hummel sometimes is used to refer to a bumblebee. Hamburg children would follow him through the streets as he carried water, yelling “Hummel Hummel” and he would respond with “Mors Mors” which is low German slang for “Kiss my a**”.
People from Hamburg often greeted each other this way long after Herr Hummel went to meet his maker. The water carrier is a popular symbol for Hamburg. Now, why didn’t my mom tell me this? How did those cute child figures get mixed up with this? I don’t even know if mom knew the whole story. If that is the case, why didn’t her mother or her grandparents tell her the story?
Since my parents have both died I find I have lots of questions that I will probably never get answered. I wish I could go back in time and ask my great grandparents and other ancestors just what is up with all this stuff. Husband and I are tentatively planning a May trip to Bremen and Hamburg, so maybe I will find some answers.
What question would you ask your ancestors?