Finding Ninee » Sharing our parenting and special needs stories with heart and humor.

Puff the Magic Dragon may have changed my life

Puff the magic dragon changed my life at summer camp in the 80

Last night, when I read that I was supposed to tell you about music that changed my life, made me me, I decided to skip this week. It’s not that the topic isn’t perfect and amazing, because it is (and thought up by the amazing Troy* from As Long as I’m Singing). It’s not that I felt like I had no more stories, even though, almost every week, I participate in Twisted Mixed Tape by telling a story. Putting life’s stories to the music is usually fun and easy. This week, I just didn’t feel like I had time to do the topic justice.

Some of my favorite posts have been about music that’s made me me. I’ve told you about buying my first bra, and the angst that was. I’ve told you about Metallica and the year 2059, passing out in Mexico, laser light shows and skanks. I wondered whether Sex on Fire was good or an STD.

Anyway, it’s been a really crazy-busy week. My husband has been working tons of hours, I’m tired and decided that I had nothing new to give when it came to talking about music that’s changed my life and made me me.

Until 9pm last night. It was Tucker’s much overdue bedtime. I’d sung my own version of “It’s a Wonderful World” (“He’s the most wonderful boy”) and “You are my Sunshine” (“You are my Tucker…”). I won’t bore you with details like my arm being on fire from rubbing his back at an awkward angle because I was too lazy to do so sitting up, or how I was fighting the urge to fall asleep right there with him, because the point is that I realized that I was singing my own version of “Puff the Magic Dragon.”

Which made me go “Ah Ha!” Puff the Magic Dragon may have changed my life.

I know, I know. Puff the Magic Dragon is not the World’s Best Song. It’s not even in the top 100. Of course, I have to change the lyrics (you know the part “Dragons live forever, but not so little boys” because – duh – implications).

It’s one that I first heard at summer camp, not realizing that it was a “real” song.

I just knew that I loved it. Come on! A magic dragon!

Summer Camp in the 80

Then, as a teen, somebody clued me into the fact that Puff was maybe about drugs! Which made it naughty and lovable.

Years later, one of my favorite memories is of my friend Sara and I, singing Puff the Magic Dragon. Using sign language.

Puff Singing Sign Language

I was lying in bed with my little boy last. It was dark, and there was an airplane decal in front of me. A monster truck one above me. A fire truck. Thomas. A dump truck. And I was singing about dragons and little boys. 35 years later.

While I am proud to say that there are 1,001 songs that made me, I was proud to own Puff the Magic Dragon, once again, last night, with my little boy. For a song to continually come to mind, over and over, for decades and decades, means that it has power. Importance. Magic. I’m telling you, as lame as it is, Puff the Magic Dragon may have changed my life.

What songs have been with you for years and years?

This has been a Twisted Mixed Tape Tuesday post, a cool concept thought up by my cool friend Jen Kehl.

*Sorry Troy, I did a really crap job of sticking to topic this week.




  • Janine Huldie - Haven’t heard this song in years, but now I have in my head for sure and might even be a great song to sing to my two little girls. Thanks for sharing and hoping the rest of your week is less chaotic now and a bit quieter for sure!October 1, 2013 – 12:01 pmReplyCancel

  • Kristi Campbell - Thanks, Janine! I hope my week gets quieter as well!
    I’ll bet your little girls would love Puff the Magic Dragon!October 1, 2013 – 12:05 pmReplyCancel

  • Emily - So of course my favorite part of this post is the picture of you and your friend thinking you’re cool in one of those Pier 1 round chairs (which we also thought were so cool) and the tin foil on the TV antennaes – priceless! I wish I had a song that may have changed my life…maybe I do and don’t realize it yet, just like you had your epiphany?October 1, 2013 – 12:11 pmReplyCancel

  • Kristi Campbell - HA, Emily! Love that you had the Pier 1 round chairs (I do believe they were called Papasan chairs and a MUST for every first-post-college apartment, yes?).
    Well…maybe “changed my life” is a wee exaggeration..maybe.October 1, 2013 – 12:16 pmReplyCancel

  • Dream - I heard that song for the first time at camp too, also clueless at the time what it may or may not be about. And I agree with Emily, the sign language cartoon was classic. Don’t kid yourself, like always, you did a great job with your post today.October 1, 2013 – 12:19 pmReplyCancel

  • Katia - I didn’t think it was a crap job sticking to the topic, I thought this was the coolest and most wonderful interpretation of the topic! I related so much to the fatigue and unwillingness to stretch your brain yet again to come up with a contrived version on this week’s topic I so often feel that way. I love that the light bulb went off when you were half way asleep catching yourself singing puff. Lovely!October 1, 2013 – 12:58 pmReplyCancel

  • clark - I was there when the song first came out… and along with Donovan’s electrical bananas it formed the center of many quickly-non-sensical-conversations among those of a certain age. And I might have wondered about what kids of your generation thought of the whole puff thing… but,
    (to paraphrase Quentin Tarantino): “thats not what’s on my mind. What’s on my mind is the question(s): a) is that Data and Tasha in foreplay mode in the background of your drawing and 2) why is Date and Tasha in foreplay mode in the background of your drawing”October 1, 2013 – 1:14 pmReplyCancel

  • Considerer - Ohhhhhhh Kristi, this immediately transports me back to school assemblies, where we used to sing it. I can almost smell the varnish they used on the floor. I love it.

    But from the very start I’ve been far too hooked into this song, because I can never listen to it without overwhelming, indescribable sorrow.

    Too much rejection, unloving, unbelonging and being left behind, and yeah, it still gets me.

    Leaving you now with a (falsely, music-induced) heavy heart, which I’ll shake off by going to spend the evening with friends. I’m glad that this song is a high point for you, and provides beautiful moments of shared togetherness, love and absolute belonging for you and Tucker. Pleased you have that.October 1, 2013 – 1:17 pmReplyCancel

  • Dana - I love this song, and I love that you wrote about it. Oh, and it’s a total myth that the song is about drugs – I googled it. And everyone knows that everything on the Internet is true.October 1, 2013 – 1:58 pmReplyCancel

  • Muses from the deep - Used to love this when I was a kid. Finally got the idea that dragons are harmless! And oh yes, you’ve got some creative kids in that cartoon. 😉October 1, 2013 – 2:56 pmReplyCancel

  • Stephanie @ Mommy, for Real. - It may not be the best song ever, but it’s totally on my new CD, which will be coming your way as soon as they arrive, thanks to your skill and expertise! The sign language drawing made me crack up. “We are so fucking cool…” 🙂October 1, 2013 – 4:03 pmReplyCancel

  • Lanaya | Raising Reagan - I have never been a fan of Peter Paul and Mary … but i do what you do, I change the lyrics of songs for Rey’s bed time. We have a lot of fun with it.

    ¤´¨)
    ¸.•*´
    (¸¤ Lanaya | xoxo
    Raising-Reagan.comOctober 1, 2013 – 4:33 pmReplyCancel

  • Jessica - DUDE. That is one of my favorite songs, ever! Right on. 🙂October 1, 2013 – 5:13 pmReplyCancel

  • Quick Stepp- Melissa - LOVED this. I used to think it was saying “atomis”. Yeah, I don’t know what that is either. But I figured a dragon can frolic wherever he damn well pleases. He’s also going to frolic in some magical places I’ve never heard of, one of which is Atomis.October 1, 2013 – 5:26 pmReplyCancel

  • Jen - This is SO not lame! I loved this post so much, because it is SO real. That’s the point, isn’t it? This song has meant something to you your whole life. And now you’re sharing it with Tucker and so it will be with him for his whole life too. Plus your pictures always make me laugh and I love that so much. I need lots of laughing. Don’t give up, you’re way to hard on yourself, your mixtape contributions rock!October 1, 2013 – 8:23 pmReplyCancel

  • Tamara - That song is a favorite in our house – not sure I remember it much from my own childhood, but I could swear I have a memory of meeting Peter, Paul & Mary. I also have a memory of a seal biting my finger at the Turtleback Zoo around that same time, so I’m pretty sure it’s just fake life filler.
    I still stand by it!October 1, 2013 – 8:46 pmReplyCancel

  • Louise - This song brings me back to childhood as well. I had this on a record of children’s songs in the early ’80s which I adored. My dad has since put the record onto CD for my kids so we can enjoy it all over again. Another gem on the record – and so one I also identify with childhood – includes “The Big Rock Candy Mountain” – before they went and cleaned it up. So they croon happily about the “buzzing of the bees in the cigarette trees”. I remember having a moment at “Music and Me” class with my eldest as we suddenly were all crooning about the peppermint trees.October 1, 2013 – 9:06 pmReplyCancel

  • Amber - I remember that song when I was a kid! We sing Little Bunny Fo Fo a lot in this house.October 1, 2013 – 11:12 pmReplyCancel

  • Kath Galasso - all it takes is a seed, and look what grew. good memories, good song.October 2, 2013 – 12:47 amReplyCancel

  • Shefali - Nice job with the pictures! I always set out to do that sort of art for my blog but somehow get derailed.
    I didn’t grow up in this country so puff the magic dragon is not something I have ever heard. but my daughter will, heading over to youtube now 🙂
    Thanks for stopping by.October 2, 2013 – 1:40 amReplyCancel

  • Debbie McCormick - I was such a nerd and didn’t really follow music that much. I listened to it all the time but never really paid close attention to the names and group band names.Or maybe it was just so long ago I don’t really remember.lolOctober 2, 2013 – 3:00 amReplyCancel

  • Linda Roy - Love that you drew the papasan chair. I’m sitting in mine as I type this.

    Puff the Magic Dragon. In fact, Peter Paul and Mary. The stuff of childhood. They were such a big part of my childhood experience – listening to and singing their songs. Memories!October 2, 2013 – 5:52 pmReplyCancel

  • Roshni AaMom - ooh, lovely!! I too love Puff the Magic Dragon, song by Peter, Paul and Mary!! Yeah, I also heard later that it may have been about weed, but I choose not to believe that! 😀October 2, 2013 – 11:20 pmReplyCancel

  • Sara - We totally were sofa king cool. We signed the sh!t out of Puff (not to mention “Corner of the Sky”!! –so emotional and dramatic!!)

    So Clark, I can tell you why Data & Tasha were on TV: because Data was “fully functional.” ST:TNG was our every-afternoon show and the “Data is fully functional” ep was our favorite episode. We would sit on our papasan together (amazing how roomy they were) and debate if the characters were high or not (they totally were).

    ….also, Kristi didn’t mention that the reason we were signing all the songs in her camp songbook was b/c she was playing hooky from her sign language class. I was helping her practice sign to justify missing class. 🙂October 3, 2013 – 11:40 amReplyCancel

  • Rachel - Aw! I love the idea of songs coming to life again through our children. I’d never thought about it like that. How lovely!October 3, 2013 – 9:40 pmReplyCancel

  • Linda Atwell - 🙂October 5, 2013 – 3:04 amReplyCancel

  • Beth Teliho - Sooo funny! Loved this post! I remember being told that song was about drugs, too. My husband is sitting next to me right now and saw what your post was about. He said that was one of his favorites growing up as well. It has sent him off on a tangent and he’s STILL talking about songs. He has no idea I’m not listening. He’ll never shut up….October 5, 2013 – 10:16 amReplyCancel

  • Karen @BakingInATornado - Puff the Magic Dragon was a favorite of mine from many years gone by. It’s one of those songs that I rarely think of, and when I do it makes me smile and wonder why I don’t think of it more often. Thanks for the reminder, I’ll be singing it in my head all day today.October 5, 2013 – 10:37 amReplyCancel

  • Chris Carter - SO fun to read this… I am smiling ear to ear with your stories and your preciousness that is threaded through your words. SO cool. I am amazed at your memory- seriously. I can’t remember hardly ANYTHING… I love your history, your stories, your YOU. XOOctober 7, 2013 – 10:07 amReplyCancel

  • Mike - I have a huge long list of songs. The first one that came to mind is “California Dreaming” by The Mamas and The Papas. I totally caught the tin foil and rabbit ears on the tv set! I remember those days, Kristi! 🙂February 2, 2014 – 11:53 amReplyCancel

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