Holiday cranberry squares and a tribute

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.

gail-cronins-cranbery-squaresI 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.

17 Responses to Holiday cranberry squares and a tribute
  1. Carla Aston Reply

    Wow. What a sweet story, Linda. It’s so funny, as I have people in my life now in their upper 80’s and 90’s, I keep thinking about telling or showing them how they have impacted me and my life. Saying things like, “I always do it this way because that’s how you taught me.” Or “I remember you always told me….” I often think, what would I want to hear when I get that age or when I get close to my end of life?

    I think I would want to know I mattered to someone, much like Gail. That I impacted someone’s life in a good way. That my knowledge, expertise, care, love or whatever I brought, was part of another’s life somewhere that was living on.

    Such good food for thought and contemplation in this busy holiday season. Thanks for the post. 🙂

    • Linda Holt Reply

      I completely agree Carla. Isn’t it sad that we often neglect to thank people for the impact that they had on our lives; especially those that may have only come into our lives briefly.

  2. Design Interest Reply

    Water? How much?

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Opps! It’s 1/4 cup water. I will go fix it right now. Thanks so much for pointing out I missed that!

  3. Beth Reply

    Omg- this brought tears to my eyes. How great of you to share Gail’s story and keep it going. I hope she looks down and smiles when she sees her name mentioned year after year. Great story! Thank you for sharing.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Beth. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that was the case. That brings a smile to my face!

  4. Design Interest Reply

    That’s what I guessed. They’re in the oven!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Yes!!!!! Awesome.

  5. Angela Taylor Reply

    What a wonderful Christmas story to pass on. Tears are in my eyes, so you know you made an impact on me. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the festivities, and forget those who may be alone. Thank you for reminding us all to be more present.
    Merry Christmas & A Happy & Healthy New Year OX

  6. Maureen Reply

    Thanks, Linda for this lovely story. It is like a Hallmark movie 😊 I have sometimes felt I was guided to someone also. I will be making Gail Cronin’s Cranberry Squares.
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Love to hear that you will be making them too. Let me know what you think! Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  7. Deborah Main Reply

    Beautiful story Linda. Thank you for sharing it. I’m gonna bake those cranberry squares, as I have my mothers homemade cranberry sauce recipe I bake every year. So many elderly people die all alone. Thankfully you had that one special day of having tea with her and now her recipe lives on thru you and many others. Merry Christmas my friend xo

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Great! Let me know what you think of them Deborah.Merry Christmas to you and your family as well!

  8. Linda Pakravan Reply

    I’ve just added these to my baking agenda! Beautiful story.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      That’s great to hear! Thanks Linda and Merry Christmas!

  9. Sandy Roth Reply

    Touching story, Linda!
    Brought tears to my eyes..Thanks for sharing..
    Happy Holidays to you and your family..

    • Linda Holt Reply

      You are welcome Sandy and thanks for reading and commenting. Happy Holidays!

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