whitaker park fountain NC
Friday Night Lights
by Terri Kirby Erickson

Imagine a family of four—young parents
too beautiful to be real taking their three
and four-year-old son and daughter out for
a Friday night treat. Yet, here are our mother
and father, alive and well, sitting side by
side in the front seat of Dad’s ’58 Rambler—
our mom’s auburn hair grazing her tanned
shoulders, our father’s profile as smooth
as a freshly ironed shirt. Parked across the
street from the Whitaker Park fountains,
we are waiting for the sun to go down while
we eat ice cream cones Dad bought for us
from the Sealtest store (on the corner of
Patterson and Glenn). But nothing tops the
delight of watching water spurt from what
looks like a mile of multiple nozzles, and
the kaleidoscope of brightly colored lights
that shine on each fountain, turning them
every shade of Kool-Aide we have ever
tasted. It is a dazzling show—made even
better for a small girl by a belly half-full
of chocolate swirl, the night air, cool and
sweet, pouring into our rolled-down win-
dows, and the presence of my brother and
my parents—the three of them so close to
the end of this poem, they are nearly gone.

PHOTO: Whitaker Park fountains (Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 1960s).

Mom and Dad (2)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Although my beloved nuclear family lives only in my memory, writing about them allows me to be with them again in the only way I can and in so doing, will hopefully inspire recollections of good times with “lost” loved ones for readers, as well.

PHOTO: The author’s parents. Tom and Loretta Kirby (1955), who married when they were 18 and 21.

Terri and Tommy Two

CAPTION: The author and her brother, Tommy (1964).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of six full-length collections of poems, including A Sun Inside My Chest (Press 53), winner of an International Book Award for Poetry. Other awards include the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize, Nautilus Silver Book Award, and many more. Her poems have appeared in “American Life in Poetry,” Asheville Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, Connotation Press, JAMA, Plainsongs, Poet’s Market, storySouth, The Christian Century, The SUN, The Writer’s Almanac, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Verse Daily, and numerous other literary journals, magazines, newspapers, and anthologies. Visit her at  terrikirbyerickson.com.