East: Tangible memories

BY KRISTEN EAST | MAY 14, 2015 5:00 AM

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I remember walking down Washington Street on a brisk December day last year when the freezing temperatures were almost too much to handle. The hood on my boxy parka nearly consumed my face because of how large it was, so I almost didn’t see the sign. It was small, and the note was short, but the meaning was finite: Closed for business.

I stood there for a while, outside the Iowa City location of the Brown Bottle, wondering how this could’ve happened. How could I have been so ill-informed about a downtown establishment closing? No warning, no time for me to have one last meal.

This, I thought, this is the beginning of the end. But then a few other things happened. The Whitey’s across the street closed unexpectedly. The Pit closed with as little notice over Christmas break.
These unexpected closings of well-known places, I’d come to realize, were signaling the end of my time in Iowa City and at the University of Iowa.

My friends would laugh at me when I’d start to tear up at the sight of the Brown Bottle being transformed into an extension of the MidwestOne Bank next door. What once was the entrance is now an ATM. The family-owned restaurant, with its dim lighting and simple décor, now houses desks and computer screens. Who knows what happened to the table I sat at with my mom almost five years ago?

Mom and I chose the Brown Bottle for our first meal in Iowa City when I came for my Hawkeye Visit Day in 2010. She ordered chicken Parmesan; I ordered pesto. We talked over dinner that night about the campus and all the things I could accomplish over the next four years.

Mom wanted to go to the Brown Bottle one last time before I graduate on Saturday, but that won’t happen.

And when I got to thinking about it, passing these shuttered establishments over the course of my last semester at the UI, I’ve realized that the memories aren’t tangible, and I suppose they aren’t supposed to be.

As much as I’d love to take Mom back to that same booth we sat in on that rainy October day, I can’t. And as much as I’d love to get an ice cream cone (always Graham Central Station) from Whitey’s, Cold Stone has had to be enough. And while Pop’s is a good replacement for the Pit, it’s missing the fried OREOs.

Those memories don’t just go away because the physical reminders no longer are there. Likewise, memories and relationships built over the past four years won’t dissipate because I’m leaving Iowa City.

After graduation, when I move to Washington, D.C., I won’t have the Iowa River on a warm spring day or the Old Capitol on the Fourth of July. Instead, I’ll have the Potomac and the U.S. Capitol. I won’t be reporting and editing at The Daily Iowan, my second home for the past four years; I’ll be at POLITICO. I can’t take locations, or buildings, or my coworkers with me. And, for now, I’m OK with that.

I can’t carry the physical reminders with me, but I can remember. And that’s the best part about memories: They’re not tangible, but the good ones never lose you.

So thanks for the memories Iowa City, University of Iowa, Daily Iowan. I won’t soon forget the conversations had and the laughs shared among coworkers and friends. 

Oh, and by the way, Mom found out that there’s a Brown Bottle location in North Liberty, only a few miles away from here. It’s not the same, but it will be a new memory, one that I’ll cherish as my first meal as a college graduate.

Kristen East graduates from the University of Iowa on Saturday with journalism and political science degrees. She was the first politics editor for The Daily Iowan, and before that served as editor-in-chief for the 2013-2014 academic year.  She thanks her family, her friends, and her DI co-workers for making the last four years worthwhile. Stay in touch with her by sending an email to kristenicoleast@gmail.com, or by following her on Twitter, @kristenicoleast.

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