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My Greatest Joy
Barbara Haring
Oct 28, 2003
People never appreciate what they have until they lose it. How often have I heard those words? So many times that I made up my mind such would not be the case with me. I have a wonderful husband and I appreciate him every day. I have wonderful children, and I thank God for them every day. But there is one thing I once had and have no longer that I did not appreciate to its fullest while it was mine. That is the joy of living in the Lehigh Valley in general and the City of Bethlehem in particular.

My family moved to Bethlehem when I was a wee tyke of about five. That would have been around 1951. We came from Pottsville. With the mining economy on a downslide, many of the people from that area moved to Bethlehem for jobs at The Steel.

We lived in Fountain Hill for a time. My father worked for Bethlehem Steel, and my mother was a nurse at St. Luke's Hospital. Over the years we lived in several different houses, but always in Bethlehem. I went to many of the town's schools: Calypso, Franklin, Central, Nitschmann and Liberty. The summer before my senior year of high school, a set of circumstances occurred that forced us to move away from Bethlehem. At the time I did not look back. I was young and had my whole life ahead of me. The past was just that - past. We were moving to the town where my grandparents and aunts and uncles lived, and that was good. I attended a new high school and that was fun. I had no idea till later what I had left behind.

I began to discover just what I had relinquished when my first husband and I went to Bethlehem for a friend's wedding. He was born and raised in east Texas. He marveled at the beauty of the Lehigh Valley and wondered how I could have ever, in good conscience, left. Looking around, I began to wonder myself.

The beauty of the area had never been lost on me, but the fact that there were places that were not as beautiful or as pleasant to live in did. It never dawned on me that the beauty of the Fall season with its vibrant colors and wonderful smells, the wonderful snows that all the holiday songs seemed to speak about, the joyous celebration of the Christmas season, the wonderful soft spring rains that caused the flowers to bloom in all their glory, and the warm summer days that made staying in the house impossible, were reserved for only a few. I had been privy to them, and had lost them.

Not only had I lost them, but I ended up in a place that didn't even come close to the wondrous climate in which I had been raised - southeast Texas. While Texas has a beauty all its own, it does not, in my estimation, compare to the wonderful area where I was raised. I communicate often with friends that have had the privilege of remaining in the Lehigh Valley area. I have met many others who moved there for business reasons, loved the area immensely and remained. The little green monster of jealousy rears its ugly head at those times. Visiting the Bethlehem website often evokes the same response.

Over the years I have, from time to time, visited the area with my husband and children. I once took my children to play on the playground at Calypso Elementary where I played as a small child. We drove past schools I went to that are no longer, and many that are. We drove past Liberty, which still stands as tall and proud as I remember. And I reminisced.

I was concerned that Bethlehem would wither and die when Bethlehem Steel was no more. I take great joy in the realization that she has recreated herself into an entity that shows even more what she is and has always been about. Bethlehem is not about a business, but about the vibrant people who are her substance. Bethlehem practiced diversity long before it was the politically correct thing to do. She remains a city of which to be proud.

It is doubtful I will ever do more than visit the area of my dreams in the future. My present husband is from Colorado, and we have bought property on the Western Slope and hope to build there when we retire. I share his love for Colorado, but I am hard at work instilling in him a love for the place of my childhood. While he has no intention of living in the Lehigh Valley, he has promised me that after we retire, we can get a travel trailer and spend weeks at a time in the area I cherish so.

While I hopefully have many years left in which to do this, the sooner the better is my mantra. In the meantime I will live vicariously through those who have the joy of residing in the area on a daily basis. You have been truly blessed.

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