I originally wrote this post several years ago. It’s my own personal Christmas story about a woman named Gail Cronin and her recipe for holiday cranberry squares.
My Christmas story actually happened over thirty five 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. On a whim we decided to move to an idyllic little coastal town North of Boston called Ipswich.
On one of our very first weekends living in Ipswich we visited a neighboring Church Christmas fair. While looking over the offerings at the bake table I bought some 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. Gail said not only would she love to share the recipe but would like it even more if I would come for a visit and have a cup of tea.
A Visit with Gail
The following weekend I paid a visit to Gail. She was in her late eighties and was the kindest soul. What she told me I have never forgotten. She explained that she was an only child who never married. Sadly, she had no family and most of her friends had either passed on or living in nursing homes. Her words struck me to my very core when she exclaimed 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. With the best intentions I promised to pay her another visit right after the holidays. Life was busy, 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 let her down. 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.
As it turned out, our time in Ipswich was less than eight months and we moved back to Boston. Now I am not a religious person but I am fairly spiritual. In looking back, I know something, or someone guided me to Gail Cronin. I spent less than an hour with her over 35 years ago yet she has been a part of our Christmas ever since.
Gail Cronin’s Cranberry Squares
I want to wish you all a very Happy Holiday 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.