We moved to Northern Germany five days after my tenth birthday. Though we were originally slated to move to Bavaria, the famously beautiful part of the country, it was changed to Bremerhaven, a seaport on the North Sea. My father went in advance of us and secured housing. I remember that video that he sent back for us of the house. We were nervous to move to a new country. I was in fifth grade and it was the first time any of us had lived abroad. We didn't know any German and we would not be coming back to the States for three years...an interminable amount of time for me and literally more than a lifetime to my little brother Josh, who was still a toddler.
Bremerhaven had a military base, but the city itself was interesting to my eyes. We lived a short walk or bike ride away from a beautiful, sprawling wooded park called Speckenbüttel. The downtown, also a short walk away, was cobblestoned and charming. There were pastries and spaghetti ice to be had. At the port itself I watched boats sailing by and pretended they were pirate ships. I imagined I could see the coast of America and that I could see my friends waving at me from three thousand miles away. I remember eating my first chocolate crepe there. My dad always got chocolate and banana, a combo I found odd at the time.
Really the best part of the year was Christmastime. We lived about a half an hour away from Bremen. Actually, Bremerhaven was part of the Bremen state within Germany (West Germany at the time). During Advent the town put on an amazing Weihnachtsmarkt, a Christmas market. Vendors from all over I don't even know where came to sell ornaments and toys and the cutest stuffed bears and the most delicious foods. One of my first really strong food memories was of these amazing mushrooms in this creamy sauce that one vendor sold here. We ate them alongside bratwurst stuck through brötchen and pommes frites.
Bremen boasted three other wonders. The first was a child's paradise, a street called Zur Böttcherstraße, which had this amazing toy shop that sold the best glass marbles and steelies and even a hand crank music box that played Für Elise, a song I loved as my friend Mandy's mother used to play it on the piano while I was at their home. The second was this beautiful statue of the medieval hero Roland, which got my mind bent towards romance:
But the most famous part of Bremen was the statue of the Brothers Grimm folktale, "The Bremen Town Musicians," the story of a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster who all want to be singers. They meet each other on the road and have adventures together. Can you spot me in the turquoise jacket? Hint: I haven't yet gotten my growth spurt.
I've been toying around with sketches for this drawing for years. I finally re-imagined them as singers and musicians. In my mind, they are singing Mozart's "The Magic Flute." Do you know the song? Then you can picture the rooster perfectly. This drawing is an ode to those years of my childhood.
I'm not sure, really, when and where inspiration strikes. The other night I was paging through an old sketchbook, looking at seeds of ideas for Halloween images, fairy tales, and more, when I found a written line (not terribly common for me), which read, "Giraffe with a nest on his head."
It could happen, you know, as the giraffe is up so high in the trees as he searches for a snack among the leaves. As I sketched it out, I realized the giraffe was happy to have that nest there, because it was the home of this little bird. You see, they are fast friends. Drawing this picture made me as happy as the giraffe seems to be.
Considering that my hair sometimes resembles a nest, and that once a bird actually tried to get some of the hair from my head for a nest, I empathize with the giraffe a bit, too.
Hans-My-Hedgehog Illustrations is the name of Jessica Boehman's blog and illustration shop. It is named after her favorite fairy tale about a hedgehog boy who becomes king of the forest. All other pages redirect to: