One year all three of my children attended the same elementary school: my youngest in morning kindergarten, my daughter in third grade, and my first born in sixth. Almost every morning, we would walk the quarter mile to school: three children, two hands; mostly they talked happily and ignored me.

That was a rare time, those ten minutes when I had my children to myself and the world was far away.

Then in August, I put my 12-year-old on the bus to go to junior high school. There was one other girl and one other boy at the stop. They each looked straight ahead, nobody talked. The bus came. The bus left. I walked home feeling empty and alone. My daughter had already left for school with a friend. My first grader and I drove.

Now, decades later, I am walking the Constitution Trial, and most mornings I pass children and their mothers waiting for the bus. But today the street is filled with pickup trucks: dad’s day at the bus stop. The children are neatly lined up waiting for the bus door to open. The fathers form a protective semi-circle around them, their arms folded. No one is talking.

Saying goodbye starts so early.