30 Elm Street

Written By: Sheila  Guidera


30 Elm Street

By Sheila Guidera  

Elm Street, inSouthamptonVillage, is a beautiful residential street that runs North-


South.  The railroad station is at the North end,Hampton Roadand the Grade School and


what was the High School, at the South end, onHampton   Road. My former  High School


is nowSouthamptonTown   Hall. Elm Street is lined with mature leafy trees, the homes


well maintained two story, some with wraparound porches,  turrets, and cupolas. Our


home was not one of the Victorian wonders, but it did have a covered front porch, up four


broad steps from the lawn.


From the time I was one year old, until I was eleven, we lived at30 Elm Street.  I


don’t have many memories before my sister, Pennie, was born. I was three years old.  I


remember being introduced to her–she was lying in my old crib, and I somehow resented


that–and my first thought was ”Why did they do that?  They told me I was perfect!”  I


thought my parents might decide they didn’t need another child after all, and send her


back. But she was here to stay.  Our brother, Michael, was born when I was seven, and


Pennie was four. He was not perfect.  He was hydrocephalic, with a big round, squashy


head, and wasn’t here to stay. He died when he was six months old. His many


hospitalizations were costly, and my parents were paying for his short life for many years.


Now it was 1947, I was ten, and Pennie was seven.


At ten, I had the whole Santa Claus thing pretty well figured out.  Santa wasn’t quite


as benevolent and giving as he was cracked up to be; an awful lot of what was under the


tree on Christmas morning was directly related to the amount of spare money your


parents had.  I thought that in a perfect world, the kids whose parents had the least


amount of money would have gotten the most from Santa–lots of wonderful toys, new


clothes, and warm coats–perhaps even a sumptuous Christmas feast left in a shiny new


red wagon. It was the Christmas before, when I was nine and sister Pennie was six–that I


realized the inequity.  Our first cousin, Fay, was an only child.  Both of her parents


worked; a rarity in those days.  Her Mom was a registered nurse, working  private


duty atSouthamptonHospital, and her Dad worked at theSouthampton  Post Office,


(where Village Hall is now), a government job , immune to cutbacks and layoffs,


whose busiest season, with lots of overtime, was Christmas.  I had been perfectly happy


with my Christmas gifts until we went to Fay’s house for a Christmas Day visit.  She had


more stuff from Santa than Pennie and me put together!  And it was so special–the


prettiest doll, and not just one.  With a doll trunk full of clothes.  Books and games


galore.  A fluffy white fur hat and muff.  And more.



So the year I was ten, I was ready for the let-down on Christmas morning.  I had


already been warned by Mom to be understated in my letter to Santa.  What I really,


really, wanted was a bicycle.  I hadn’t had my ridiculous growth spurt yet–I was to grow


eleven inches in the next year, between eleven and twelve–so at ten, I was actually small


for my age, and really needed a mid-size bike. This was an impossible request, so I didn’t


even mention it in my letter to Santa. I decided to be brave and grown-up about the whole


gift thing.  As the older daughter, I reminded myself, I had this responsibility.


Our family had had another financially  bad year, although we kids didn’t entirely


realize it at the time.   My Dad worked for Bell Telephone Company, and had been on


strike.  At the time, it seemed endless, with lots of adult worrying about money, as there


was no such thing as strike benefits or any other source of income. We ate a lot of codfish