Don't get me wrong. The George W. Bush Presidential Center is a magnificent place by any standard. The majestic, vertical windows atop the traditional, Georgian brick architecture are a tribute to the rest of the Southern Methodist University campus and a fitting reflection on a presidency. But as I walked up the front sidewalk toward the museum for the first time, I reflexively took a deep breath through my nose, as I had done on that same spot so many times before. And I smelled...nothing.
I attended SMU from 1981 until I had earned my journalism degree in 1985 and the new Bush presidential library and museum sit just across the street from the fraternity house where I lived for two-and-a-half years.
Some of my earliest and fondest memories of freshman year are of walking across Mockingbird Lane to the 7-Eleven store with my new friends from Boaz Hall, one of the oldest dormitories on campus. The little convenience store (the seventh 7-Eleven store ever built, I'm told) sat next to the Mrs. Baird's bakery and the captivating aroma of fresh-baked bread wafted across the southeast corner of campus, day and night. Even now, I can't help but be thrown back 30 years to those cool, autumn nights when I smell bread in an oven.
At the moment that my buddies, Mike and Francisco, and I were headed to 7-Eleven for beer and cigarettes, Bill Clements was still governor of Texas. (His vigorous support of a monetary "slush fund" for SMU athletes would eventually lead to a "death penalty" against the school's football program.) George W. Bush was a long way from becoming governor, much less president.
That's all old history, now. The 7-Eleven store, the Mrs. Baird's bakery and Bill Clements are gone. And so is the intoxicating scent of fresh-baked bread settling onto the SMU campus.