Funeral for a Friend

I needed glitter. I didn’t want to be a California Raisin, a Ninja Turtle, or a Cabbage Patch Kid. (These costumes were all the rage when I was in elementary school.) Instead, my costume had to have shimmer and shine. And since my dancing school costumes were chock full of glitter, I decided to be a tap dancer-five years in a row. And since my sister liked anything I liked, she, too, was a dancer.

In my New Jersey town, the schoolkids would trick-or-treat on the residential streets near the lake. My mother would drive us to a friend’s home where we would gather with all the raisins, turtles and chubby faced dolls. We would collect candy from decorated homes and then conduct the Great Halloween Trade. After the rules were established (THREE Hershey’s kisses for every ONE Reese’s peanut butter cup), we would barter with each other until we were content with our cornucopia of candy.  We would pack up our bags and head home on a sugar high.

But, the big scare happened AFTER trick or treating.

As my mother pulled our car into our long, backwoods, driveway, we would start to hear the music. The screeching organ notes actually sounded like dying heartbeats.

As we approached the house, the music would get louder and we would notice the darkness. The lights had been turned off. There were no candles burning. There was no glow from the television. Just pure blackness…with the front door wide open.

“You go first, Mom,” we would whisper, trembling.

Mom would walk slowly toward the front door as we gripped to her legs. Our pale white knuckles squeezed her thighs tightly as glitter from our costumes rubbed off on her jeans.

At the door, the music would be deafening.  “The dirge of death,” as we would later call the tune. The song would echo through our haunted house, causing bone-tingling fear. There were pipes and organs and creepy wind sounds.

“Go ahead, kids,” my mom would say as she held back. “I’m sure I just left the radio on.”

Our tiny tap-shoe feet would slowly step through the front door.


Gasps and screams would follow.

After our hearts resumed beating, Dad would step from behind the front door, and smile.  “Gotcha,” he would say nonchalantly as he turned on the lights.

“Da-ad,” we would roll our eyes, never admitting our fear.

Every year of my childhood, my father blasted Elton John’s Funeral For A Friend to scare us on Halloween. And every year, it worked. We didn’t know it was an Elton John song. We only knew that the sound of those beginning organ notes scared the glitter out of us.

It never got old for my father to scare us. And although one would think that we would have learned our lesson the first time around (or at least the second or third),  there was always that chance that a ghost-monster-vampire actually was in our house. And so the tradition continued, year after year until we outgrew trick or treating. And to this day, it’s one of my fondest holiday memories.

I have a one year old son now. And he’s too young to scare on Halloween. But when he turns six or seven, I have a feeling that Funeral for a Friend might just make a comeback.


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