I originally wrote this post two years ago. It’s about a woman named Gail Cronin and her cranberry squares and it’s my own personal Christmas story. Since I have many new readers I thought it was appropriate to share this post once again.
This story actually began over thirty years ago, when I was a newlywed. My husband and I for a reason I no longer remember decided to give up our convenient but very noisy apartment in Harvard Square and move to an idyllic little coastal town North of Boston called Ipswich.
On one of our very first weekends living there we stopped by a Church Christmas fair that was being held around the corner from our new apartment. While looking over the offerings at the bake table I bought some delicious looking cranberry squares. They were the best cranberry squares I had ever eaten (actually they were the first cranberry squares I had ever eaten). I asked the woman at the bake table if she knew who had made them and if it was possible to get the recipe. She took my number and said she would inquire. I really didn’t expect to ever hear anything back, but the very next day I received a call from a very sweet elderly lady named Gail Cronin. She not only said she would love to share the recipe but would like it even more if I would come for a visit and have some tea.
The following weekend I paid a visit to Gail. She was the sweetest and kindest woman. She was well into her eighties and what she told me I have never forgotten. She explained that she was an only child who never married. She had no family whatsoever and most of her friends had either passed on or were ill and in nursing homes. She told me she was an “unremarkable woman” who had lived an “unremarkable life”. Her final words struck me profoundly when she said, “when I die, it will be like I never even existed”.
I just couldn’t shake off how sad I felt for her and how very alone she was. I promised to pay her another visit right after the holidays. Well not surprisingly I got busy and the holidays came and went and I never did contact Gail. A couple months later, I saw her obituary in the Ipswich newspaper. I barely knew this woman but in some weird way I felt like I had failed her since I broke my promise to visit her after the holidays. Her final words of “when I die it will be like I never even existed” haunted me. I made a vow that I would never forget her and that I would keep her name and my memory of her alive. I can honestly say, I have done just that. For over thirty years I have been making Gail’s Cranberry Squares every Christmas. Originally my family thought it somewhat strange that I pay tribute to basically a stranger but they know it wouldn’t be Christmas without Gail’s Cronin’s cranberry squares.
As it turned out, we lived in Ipswich less than eight months then moved back to Boston. Now I am not a religious person but I am somewhat spiritual. In looking back, I know something, or someone guided me to Gail Cronin. I spent less than an hour with her over 30 years ago yet she has been a part of our Christmas ever since.
Here is the recipe for Gail Cronin’s Cranberry Squares.
I want to wish you all a very Happy Holiday and Happy New Year and if you have any inclination, please raise a toast to the memory of “an unremarkable woman” who had an “unremarkable life” named Gail Cronin. I have never forgotten her, and I never will.
Also, be sure to check back for Tuesday’s blog where I share five tips for taking better holiday photos with your iPhone.