Polly Foley sits in the back of the class on a chilly January day. Fresh off a degree from Gonzaga University, Polly’s now a teaching assistant in the chemistry department after securing a spot in the graduate program at Iowa State. As the class ends, Polly stands up. Her classmates didn’t even notice until now. Polly’s seven months pregnant.
Two months later, as he arrives back 161D University Village following a grueling calculus mid-term, Brooks is ready for a good night’s sleep. Instead, he comes home to find Polly in labor. Like nearly all first time fathers, the 23 year old Virginia native knows that his life will never be the same.
Eighteen years pass. Brooks and Polly Foley have moved on from Ames. The Cary, Illinois, residents have three beautiful children. The oldest, Maureen, is going to college next year. She wants to visit a university that’s been stuck in her memory since she was a child.
“My mom and I came for a visit and I fell in love with the campus,” says Maureen. “It was July when we visited and it was beautiful. It made my decision really easy.”
“We were very proud she and Alex (Maureen’s little brother) chose ISU,” says Brooks. “Like us, they fell in love with the campus and Ames. I like to think they were drawn back there by memories of their early childhood in the ISU community.”
On a cold winter day in 1993, the wind whips across the farm land located directly across from the Foley apartment in Schilletter Village. Three year old Maureen wants to go outside, but the biting breeze and sub-freezing temperatures give Brooks pause. He’d prefer Maureen and Alex play inside today. It’s just too cold. Brooks grabs a pile of laundry and heads to the basement. A little red head follows him, grabbing her tricycle at the base of the stairs and peddling around the room as sounds of the winter storm reverberate through the building.
“We didn’t have much,” says Brooks. “But we made due and we had a great time.”
“I remember things like going to Hickory Park,” says Maureen. “They had a place where they made the sundaes and my dad would take me over and hold me up and I would watch them make my ice cream and they would give me extra cookies. And I remember going to the fire engine park (Brookside Park). That’s what we called it. It has a fire engine in it and I remember playing on the fire engine all the time.”
It’s been ten years since Brooks and Polly have been on the Iowa State campus. The memories come flooding back as they pull past Hilton Coliseum and into the Oak-Elm parking lot.
“I think it was really cool for my parents when they were moving me in,” says Maureen. “My dad was like, ‘Oh I walked to class this way and I used to do this on campus.’”
“A lot had changed, but there were still a number of things that hadn’t,” says Brooks. “We took the kids on a tour of the places that we lived and the places that we went and the things we did when they were little. We quickly remembered all the things we loved about living in Ames.”
After two years living in the residence halls on campus, Maureen and her roommate make the move to the same SUV apartment community she played in as a toddler.
“We asked her if she was going to request 161D,” jokes Brooks.
“I think it was really cool for my parents when they were moving me in,” says Maureen. “They just kept saying, ‘you lived in here and you stayed in this room in your crib.’ Back then, they didn’t have air conditioning, so my mom likes to say how spoiled we are because we have air conditioning.”
Some things have changed in the SUV community, the library, and throughout campus, but enough stay the same for the Foleys to share memories as a family.
“Moving her in to both UV and Schilletter brought back memories of when we moved in,” says Brooks. “It was fun. We remembered what it was like and we were able to share our experience and could provide some advice on things to get to make the apartments seem more like home.”
“They obviously had a different experience than I do since they had children,” says Maureen. “My dad likes to talk about getting his hair cut in the MU. There’s no barber shop there anymore, but he remembers doing that. He remembers a lot of the kid stuff, like going to the horse barn. They have the same stories they like to share all the time.”
As always, Parks Library is quiet. A young man walks to the checkout desk and sets down his books. The student working the desk scans the first book. As she picks up the second, she pauses. Suddenly, a little girl toddles her way toward the desk. It all makes sense now. There aren’t a lot of college students who check out Curious George along with an engineering book.
Two decades later, the little Curious George enthusiast has grown up and is putting the final touches on her own memorable ISU experience. The baby that interrupted late night cram sessions is now cramming herself, so she can earn her degree and attend law school next year.
“I feel like my life has come full circle,” says Maureen. “I say that all the time. I never thought when I first came here that I would end up living in the same place as my parents, but it just so happened to work out that way. I’m really glad it did.”