EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


August 6, 2013

The secret garden

Woman surprises boyfriend with park memorial to his mom

HAVERHILL — Jennifer Babineau left her apartment whenever she had a chance, and it was starting to bother her boyfriend, Scott Gaff.

He works long hours and complained that she wasn’t doing chores, such as the dishes. She would only tell him that she was out running errands, as well as looking for a job.

“He’d call and I’d just say, ‘I’m out,’” Babineau said of calls he made to her cell phone.

Gaff didn’t find out what was going on until his birthday on July 11. That day, he was a passenger in Babineau’s sister’s car and, when they approached a small park at the western edge of Plug Pond, he noticed the park was filled with his relatives. He told the driver to pull over.

Leaning against a tree was a sign covered in a blanket.

“I told him, ‘Do you remember all those times I wasn’t doing the dishes or cleaning the house? This is what I’ve been doing on my time off,’” Babineau said. “He was speechless.”

Babineau revealed the sign which indicated she had adopted the area through the city’s Brightside organization as a birthday gift to Gaff. She told him she did it in memory of his mother, Kitty Gaff, who died in 2008.

Scott Gaff’s eyes filled with tears as memories of childhood trips to the little park with his mother came rushing back.

“We didn’t have a lot of money to do things, so my mom would take me here to fish,” said Gaff, 36. “I spent a lot of time here with my mother.

“I really didn’t know what to say at the time,” Gaff said of the surprise gift. “Jennifer didn’t even know my mother.”

Although Babineau’s sign says “Kitty Gaff Memorial Park,’’ the area’s official name is the Mill Street Boat Ramp Area. It’s popular with people who launch canoes or other small craft onto the pond It’s also a popular spot to fish or spend time near the shore of beautiful spring-fed Lake Saltonstall, which is Plug Pond’s official name.

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