RAILROAD: Delays in Pocopson

The traffic delays at the railroad crossing on Route 926 in Pocopson are a perennial source of frustration for commuters and neighbors alike.

At Thanksgiving dinner a Kennett resident told me she thinks the situation has gotten much worse in recent months.

On her way home from work the other evening, she was delayed for 45 minutes while the trains were being shuttled back and forth across the road, and traffic regularly backs up across the Brandywine Creek all the way to the Birmingham Township building.

She said she called the East Penn railroad company to find out when the train activity occurs, but to no avail: there doesn't seem to be a fixed schedule.

"People say to me, `Why don't you go another way?" she said. "But you don't know it's going to be backed up until you get there!"

"You need to write an article about this!" she said, gesturing with a serving fork to emphasize her annoyance.

DINNER: Time with family

We spent Thanksgiving with about 20 of Dearest Partner's relatives in Perkasie, Bucks County.

Thanksgiving dinner there is always a laid-back event, with no politics or family minefields. Two well-behaved dogs, a yellow Lab and a black pit bull, wandered around enjoying the attention.

The hosts have a wonderful garden, so we enjoyed fresh carrots and Brussels sprouts. There's also a nearby dairy, Penn View Farm, that makes amazing chocolate milk (much like Baily's in Pocopson), bottled in old-fashioned glass containers.

Two of the guests this year were among the walking wounded. One man had his right arm in a sling after undergoing bicep tendon reattachment surgery, and his wife and kids were really quite solicitous, bringing him food, making sure his afflicted arm was properly positioned and cutting his turkey for him. (I did see him attempt to cut another slice of pumpkin pie for himself, with limited success.)

I had fun helping little Bella, who's in first grade, read a picture book about a monster called the Nibbler. Some of the writing was in cursive, but she did a fine job of deciphering it. She even sounded out tricky words like "gnaw" and "knock." I had a flashback to my own learning-to-read days when the word "cupboard" appeared. I vividly remember feeling irritated when the teacher corrected me and told me it's pronounced "cubberd": it's clearly "cup" and "board"!

Bella is a quick-witted child. We were carrying baskets of rolls from the kitchen into the dining room.

"Bella!" I asked her, looking to find some available space amidst the place settings, bowls, and casserole dishes. "Where shall we put the rolls?"

"On the table," she said, not missing a beat.

MULTICULTURAL: Thanksgiving service

Filomena Elliott, adult literacy director at the Kennett Library, certainly had her work cut out for her at the interfaith Thanksgiving Service on Sunday, Nov. 18. For the Spanish-speaking members of the audience, she translated Rev. Annalie Korengel's sermon, "Created for Community," from English to Spanish. Then she switched gears and translated Rev. Martin Gaspar's message from Spanish to English, this time working ex tempore like a UN translator without a written copy of his remarks.

The churches participating in the community service were Unionville Presbyterian Church (Rev. Korengel), the First Baptist Church of Kennett Square (Rev. Daniel Nicewonger), the Episcopal Church of the Advent (Rev. Dr. Nancy Hoeschel), Monte Horeb (Rev. Gaspar), and St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church (Father Chris Rogers), which hosted the event. An offering was taken to benefit the winter coat drive at Family Promise.

The Kennett Community Chorus, directed by former Kennett mayor Leon Spencer, sang "Let Us Walk in Peace." The "Praise Team" from the Baptist Church performed "Who You Say I Am" and passed out song sheets so we could join in. There was also an impromptu rendition of "People in Your Neighborhood" from "Sesame Street." The closing hymn was "America the Beautiful."

Refreshments and conversation followed downstairs in the social hall.

KATS: Where are the tarts?

This season's Kennett Amateur Theatrical Society pantomime, "Alice and the Stolen Tarts," is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, January 18, and 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, January 19, in the Kennett High School auditorium.

After speaking to Shelley Mincer, who has performed in every panto for years -- this year she'll play the March Hare -- we can't wait to attend this year's offering. Tickets ($10 for adults and $5 for children ages 12 and under) go on sale in December.

Remember, audience participation, like hissing, booing, and singing, is encouraged!

HORTICULTURE 1: A good read

A few months ago a friend, a gentleman past retirement age, shared the sad news that he had lost both his wife and his brother-in-law in short order. Since then I've been making a point of keeping in touch with him.

Knowing of his interest in gardening, history and books, I recommended to him Elizabeth Gilbert's "The Signature of All Things," which I'd just started reading. It's a novel about the family of a horticulturalist in colonial Philadelphia.

The day after I sent my enthusiastic recommendation, the book took an abrupt and wholly unexpected turn: the daughter of the family discovers there is more to life than stamens and pistils.

So what do you think: should I alert my friend?

HORTICULTURE 2: Can this marriage be saved?

This week's editing project is a book on novel therapies to help couples who aren't getting along. One of them is horticultural therapy, in which couples are assigned to plan, plant, and tend a garden. This is supposed to improve their communication and decision-making skills and make the partners feel like they're on the same team.

As an avid gardener with strong feelings about garden planning and maintenance, I was highly skeptical that this would improve a troubled relationship in any way, shape or form. Maybe the therapy might work if both partners are novice gardeners, but after you have a year or two under your belt, you have definite preferences every step of the way, starting with what seed catalogues to order from and ending with how to lift dahlia bulbs come autumn.

I shared this idea with my gardening friends, and hilarity and disbelief ensued -- even among those with some therapy training.

"Oh, someone would die," stated one, with absolute certainty. "There are sharp implements involved!"

Another assured me that if she and her husband (of 30 years) had to share garden planning, they'd be divorced before ground was broken.

A professional gardener said she relies on her husband to start the rototiller, and then she takes over.

I was left wondering if the author of this book is actually a gardener herself. One wonders what the next "experiential therapy" will be: wallpapering together? Or perhaps setting up a new computer?

DINNER: Sometimes you wonder ...

We arrived at our favorite Indian restaurant the other night just as a woman and her son walked in, without a reservation, and asked for a table for 11. The two owners started moving tables and chairs around and setting places. The family group gradually straggled in -- men, women, young children and babes-in-arms -- and we discerned that it was a birthday party for the grandfather.

The "birthday boy" had clearly picked the restaurant even though the rest of the family knew nothing about Indian food. In his loud voice, he went through the menu and told everyone what they would and wouldn't like.

"You don't want the biryani," he declared. "It's a bunch of morsels of different stuff." (At the time, I was eating an absolutely scrumptious lamb biryani.)

He besieged the poor waiter with questions about what color the sauces were and what accompaniments came with each entrée. He pointed to the chicken tandoori on the menu and asked the waiter to explain how it was cooked. The waiter thought he was ordering it and started writing it on his pad.

It didn't help that the grandfather was intermittently taking phone calls and standing up and walking around the restaurant.

The waiter tried to set about taking people's orders in some organized fashion, but one guest said she'd already eaten and would share what others had ordered; another hadn't made up her mind and asked the waiter to come back to her later.

The two older woman at the end of the table were reading the menu with disapproval. "I'm not ordering anything Indian, that's for sure!" said one (I couldn't believe my ears). She ended up ordering chicken fingers. With rice. Without any sauce.

Before they finished ordering, with the waiter just standing there, the man started opening his birthday presents. One was a collection of religious essays.

I wish we could have stayed to witness this clan eating their dinner, but we had a concert to attend.

CHRISTMAS: Carol sing in Marlborough Village

I know it's only the end of November, but December gets so busy that I wanted to share this wonderful Christmas event with you well ahead of schedule.

Marlborough Friends Meeting's annual carol sing will be held at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 23. The meetinghouse is at 361 Marlborough Road, Kennett Square.

We've attended this simple and peaceful event for many years, and the description that the Meeting sent out rings absolutely true: "This event has become an annual Christmas experience for many families. The Spirit of Christmas never fails to visit as the Marlborough community gathers for a time of song and fellowship. Harp and guitar music blend easily into the centuries-old woodwork. Candlelight creates an authentic holiday atmosphere as children shake sleigh bells and sing Rudolph’s story."

Write to Tilda at uvilleblogger@gmail.com. Thanks!

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