Collection was all about timing

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sometimes when I see glitzy television commercials glamorizing everything from cereal to cars, I think of the little woman with a basket on her arm who knocked on my door in military housing in Bamberg, Germany, in the early 1960s. Just as commercials invade our homes uninvited each time the television is on, so was that person ready to do the same with her presence at my door. I can flip off the television set any time. I was just as ready to deal with her the same way. I would just turn her away from my door. I had a dust cloth in my hand and was in no mood to deal with someone who didn’t speak English—especially someone unexpected and uninvited.

My usual behavior with occasional door-to-door sales people there was a shake of the head, followed by a “No thank you.” Then I’d close my door. But a smile had spread across her face as I opened the door and she began unwrapping something in that basket so quickly that my “No thank you” never surfaced. I recognized a Hummel figurine when I saw one. Within 10 minutes she had showed me each piece in her basket.

As she laid the colorful little figurines on my couch, the wheels spun in my head. It was a couple of days after Army payday, and I wondered how I was going to stretch the grocery money to fit in the figurine. I’m not sure I figured it out before she left with some of my cash and I had my first Hummel. Feeling a little guilty over my extravagance, but excited over my acquisition, I called a friend who owned some Hummels. She rushed right over. She suspected I’d been hoodwinked so she brought several she’d purchased at the Post Exchange for comparison. We looked them over and verified that mine had the true Hummel trademark on the base. I was thrilled.

Again, a few days after payday, there came a knock on my door. That time I invited the woman into my living room and she showed me the pieces in her basket. And again, I made a selection. She spoke no English. I spoke no German, yet we communicated well. She didn’t return every month, but when she did it was always at that most vulnerable time for me and the most opportune time for her, a few days after soldiers’ payday. The pretty little figurines of rosy-cheeked Bavarian children were crafted from sketches by artist Berta Hummel, ordained Sister Maria Innocentia, and created by the Goebel factory in West Germany. I sent some back to the states as gifts.

These days I pause to take a look when I occasionally see Hummels displayed elegantly behind glass in stores. They always bring back memories of the initially unwelcome door-to-door sales person who gained a swift foothold in my door simply by appearing on just the right day.