Just a Minute

Union Station has the words “All aboard!” My niece Riley puts it a bit more simply.


And off the Riley Express rolls again.

The Riley Express is a red Radio Flyer wagon that arrived under the tree this year with a label by Santa, shipping information by Riley’s dad and assembly by a whole lot of sleep-deprived elves. It’s a thing of beauty, capable of hauling every plaything Riley has ever owned.

Or one 2-year-old with a suitable bodyguard of toy ducks.


Since the weather’s been chilly, the Riley Express has stuck to indoor routes, going around and around the first floor of the house. It sometimes means clearing a dog or two from the track, but that’s the price you pay for an all-season infrastructure.

The locomotive, of course, has mostly been the Uncle Scott No. 1. It’s a used engine with an uncertain drive train (as a co-worker pointed out), but so far the on-call record has been fabulous.


Some routes last longer than others. Some have musical accompaniment that ranges from Sesame Street to Johnny Cash. But they all have one thing in common: if the locomotive’s in the yard, the train will be ready to roll.

There’s time.

Even on the craziest days, there’s time.

That’s harder to remember than it sounds.

You all know this. After all, we just started a new year. The time when some of us still make pledges and promises, resolutions and good intentions, to take something we’ve always wanted to do and make it real.

“This is the year I finally learn to cook.”

“OK, I will hit the gym this time. Five days a week, no exceptions.”

“That novel I’ve been thinking about? Totally going to do it.”

It’s sort of like the Mayan apocalypse in reverse. With an old calendar gone away, it’s as though prior history was wiped out with it. This is the fresh start, the new dawn. The time to do what we always wanted to do.

But that’s the catch, isn’t it?


We make the commitment. Sometimes we even start well. And then suddenly it’s June and we haven’t thought about it for five months.

“Things just got so busy. But I’ll fit it in, when I can find the time.”


Now, I know some of us have a genuinely insane situation. The ones working two jobs. The ones trying to be two parents in one body. The ones who probably don’t even have time to read this column, never mind add one more commitment to their life. (If you are reading this column in the midst of all that, by the way, I’m flattered.)

That I understand.

The rest of us, as Ricky used to put it on the late-night reruns, have some ‘splainin’ to do.

I’m not talking about productivity or hyper-efficiency or all the other grand buzzwords that bosses use to mean “Get off your tail and work already!” None of us needs to pack every minute or grind our lives into exhaustion.

But one thing I’ve noticed. If something’s important enough, the time can be found.

It might not be found quickly. But then, J.R.R. Tolkien spent more than 10 years writing The Lord of the Rings.

It might not be found easily. The Russian composer Alexander Borodin had to squeeze time for music while also working as an organic chemist, with friends on both sides of the line convinced he was wasting his time. Closer to home, I once met a children’s author who wrote his first book during stolen minutes on an assembly line.

But more often than not, the time is there if you want it to be. If it’s important enough to be.

I’m going to try to remember that a little more this year. There’s things I’ve been meaning to do for a while: books and plays to write, skills to learn, visits to make. Maybe it’s time to put my clock where my mouth is.

Once I give Riley one more pull in the wagon, anyway.

Because when the really important things call, you simply have to go-go.