Holiday cranberry squares and a tribute

Although this post is a departure from my usual, I have been wanting to share this very personal holiday story for awhile now. It’s about a woman named Gail Cronin and her holiday cranberry squares. 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 cute 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 there we happened to drop by a Christmas fair that was being held at the First Church of Ipswich. While looking over the offerings at the bake table we decided on some yummy 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 nicest, kindest, woman imaginable. 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 very 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 my busy life at the time got in the way. The holidays came and went and I never did contact Gail. Months later, when I did finally reach out to her I learned she had passed away just a few weeks earlier. 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 right 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.

Here is the original recipe card she gave me if you too would like to try them. It’s time worn and stained but it is in her handwriting which somehow makes me feel more connected to her.

Gail Cronin's Cranberry squares 1

Gail Cronin’s Cranberry Squares side one

Gail Cronin's cranberry squares2

Gail Cronin’s cranberry squares side 2

Within months of our move to Ipswich the novelty of living in a cute little town had worn off.  The reality of a 3-4 hour daily commute most likely had something to do with it and we moved back closer to Boston.  Now I am not a religious person at all but I am somewhat spiritual. In looking back, I  don’t know why we ended up living in Ipswich for only a matter of months but I do know something, or someone guided me to Gail Cronin. I spent less than an hour with her over 30 years ago but she has been a part of our holiday ever since.

I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year and if you have any inclination, please say a little 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.






9 Responses to Holiday cranberry squares and a tribute
  1. Jil Sonia Interiors Reply

    Oh my goodness, I’m all teary eyed. What a truly wonderful story. I’m so very honoured that you shared it with us.
    I just love things like this. I bet your visit was a very special day for her.
    You are such a good person!
    Merry Christmas, and Merry Christmas Gail – I’m sure you were anything but unremarkable.

  2. suzanne hermes Reply

    Thank you Linda! What an amazing story. You were truly blessed by an angel!

  3. kelly Reply

    What a nice story. She must have been very special for you to remember her so well. Thanks for sharing!

    Happy 2015 my friend!

  4. Allyson Paris Reply

    Beautiful story, wonderfully told. I too am all teary-eyed, and I am sure Gail is too, up in heaven.

    You never know how what you say or do will affect someone, but clearly we leave our imprint, even if it’s in small ways. Thanks for sharing, Linda.

  5. Kim Macumber Reply

    Oh Linda, what a wonderful story … I absolutely believe that you were guided to her and love that you have continued to keep her in your life through the cranberry squares! Happy New Year to you my friend! xokim

  6. Susan Kanoff Reply

    Wow, what a beautiful post Linda. Sometimes people come into our lives for a brief time, but touch us in a big way. Sounds like Gail was one of those people. Thanks for sharing your experience and reminding us to be kind to each other. Happy New Year my friend. ….oh, and I plan to make her cranberry squares!

  7. Gail DiNoto Reply

    Hi Linda,
    All I can say is that you are one remarkable, loving person! I believe our lives cross paths for many reasons and you were certainly the “Chosen One” for Ms. Gail Cronin, who was also a remarkable lady. She’s now touched so many lives because you did not fail her!! The memory of Gail Cronin is alive because of you and as a tribute to you both, I’ve passed along her recipe and your story. Additionally, I will bake her cookies and attach her recipe.

    Wishing you and your family a Healthy, Happy and Prosperous New Year!

    Thanks for 2014’s blog posts. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed them!!

    f wonderful blog posts. I’ve enjoyed them immensely!

  8. Kathy Reply

    This is a beautiful tribute and I love that, by sharing her story, Gail Cronin lives forever in our memories now too. It’s a good bet she couldn’t conceive of achieving immortality through something as futuristic as the Internet. Thank you for sharing her story. I can’t wait to try the recipe!

  9. Jeannine Casey Reply

    This memory of yours is such a special and heartwarming story. It was such a pleasure to read – and to think about. How wonderful that you took the time to sit with this woman and talk. I’m sure that your visit brought her joy – and if she could only know that in that very short visit – she left an impression on you that was truly remarkable. It’s so nice that her recipe has become part of your holiday tradition. We all can learn from this story – Thank you for sharing.

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