Why Smoke on the Water Makes Me Cry

I was walking to my car after a long day at work when I heard one of my favorite sounds. A school marching band was practicing somewhere outside.

Maybe it’s weird, but when I hear a marching band playing I will stop whatever I’m doing and figure out how to get closer so I can hear it better. But this was more than that.

As the horns drew out those first few notes I was instantly transported to another time.

Bum bum ba…

Bum bum ba da…

Bum bum ba…

Ba dum…

Sixth grade band. Smoke on the Water was one of the songs we learned that year, and it quickly became our go-to melody for killing time when our band director left the room or stopped to deal with other matters. The horns would draw out those introductory notes, cuing the drums to kick in-

Rat tat – tat tat -tat tat!

That was me. That was my happy place.

On the rare occasion that I hear this song, I always have the same reaction. My eyes fill with nostalgic tears, but listening brings me so much joy that I can’t step away until the song is finished.

When I first said I wanted to play the drums, my parents probably nodded politely and waited for me to lose interest. I didn’t. I auditioned for the drums section, killed. it. (humble, I know), and off we went, garage sale-ing and thrifty-nickeling for a snare drum kit.

Fast forward to holding first chair for weeks at a time, band concerts, parades, competitions, and feeling totally in my element despite being one of only two girls in a section composed mostly of males. For the next three years I looked forward to that part of my day, drove my parents crazy practicing without my pad, and took my identity as a drummer (I’m sorry, “percussionist”) very, very seriously.

To this day, I can’t find a good reason why I quit. Remnants of my thought process still linger, but none of it is sound. And at 14 years old who could expect it to be?

As an insecure middle schooler, the term “band nerd” stuck to me like glue. I didn’t want to brand myself the minute I entered high school. I wanted a fighting chance. Which is interesting looking back, because being popular was never something I was concerned with. Having friends that I fit in with? Yes. But not being popular.

As an adult I can see that the kids who are branded nerds are the ones who are smarter, more skilled, or simply more focused than average. Putting a label on that is a classic case of adolescents tearing others down to build themselves up.

I don’t hold onto many regrets, but looking back I realize I probably should have continued. A good handful of the friends I made in high school ended up being in band, and I would watch, every football game, gripping the edge of the cold, metal stadium bench as the drum line counted down to their start.

One reason I excelled at the drums is because I have a musical ear and a good sense of rhythm (boy is my back sore from all this patting I’m doing today). I have always enjoyed music and dancing but drill team was something I never dared to consider.

I wasn’t comfortable enough in my skin to put on tight clothing and dance in front of people. I loved watching my sister and my friends perform but told myself I was perfectly content, once again, to just sit in the stands.

I miss the feeling of playing the drums. Each summer I watch So You Think You Can Dance and feel like I could have been on that stage (yeah yeah, me and the rest of America). I dream about missed opportunities and wonder what my path would have looked like with just a little more confidence, and less concern for what others were saying or doing.

When I look into my daughter’s eyes I see an effortless confidence that I worry this world will steal from her.

I see beauty born of joy from the inside out that I pray will only grow brighter as she learns about Jesus and one day accepts Him into her heart.

I see a free spirit that, even now, the world does not understand, as she spins in circles until she falls down, only to explode in giggles and then stand up and do it again.

I pray that I can support her endeavors without pushing, instill value in her but not entitlement, and let her fly without the constant need to check her wings.

I pray she will one day leave our nest knowing who she is, what she is made for, and embrace her God-given design whether it leads her to dance, paint, attend medical school, or serve in the military.


Of course I want the same for my son, but I have only walked this earth as a woman. I know how the enemy operates to steal our joy and our self-worth. I know that it does not happen overnight, but gradually and with subtlety, as our earthly surroundings whisper quiet confirmations that we are not enough. That our ambitions are shallow or silly.

It’s never too late to pursue a dream. Does that mean I’m going to stop in and buy a drum set on my way home? Probably not. But it does mean that a few years ago I took a dance class, just for the heck of it.

It means that I can find little ways to apply that part of myself that enjoys a good beat to my fitness goals and new coaching business.

I can search out new ways to embrace and use my creative gifts as an example to my children that our design is not by chance.

I don’t believe any of us possess accidental passions. What are yours? And how are you using them?


2 thoughts on “Why Smoke on the Water Makes Me Cry

  1. As the mother of 4 band nerds, I understand completely! I feel the same way when I hear the marching band practice. I just love those marching band kids, they are the best most hardworking group in the school. Smoke on the Water was the song in middle school that the band director would let every kid, who wanted to, play a solo. Sometimes that song went on forever! Loved your post.
    Mickey http://www.mybashfullife.com/


    • Thanks, Mickey! I completely agree. There was always something different about the band students. I think they were actually the “cool kids” that everyone secretly wanted to emulate.


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