Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in a tidy little wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
One afternoon Benson was outside doing stuff, and when he came in, Aunt Lillibet was in the kitchen, sitting at the table, making something with modelling clay.
Benson rushed over and sat down and said, “What are you making? Can I make some too?”
Aunt Lillibet was concentrating very hard. She was concentrating so hard she didn’t take her eyes off what she was doing. “Mushrooms,” she said.
“You’re making mushrooms?” Benson said. He looked at what she had made so far, a row of mushrooms, red with white spots, with white curvy stems, absolutely perfect. “Oh, they’re so beautiful!” Benson said. “Can I make one, please, please, Aunt Lillibet?”
“Oh, all right, but don’t bump the table,” She passed some scraps of modelling clay over to Benson on the other side of the table.
Benson rolled the dough out carefully, and cut out a circle for the top of the mushroom and rolled a little log for the stem, and made a lovely mushroom. He looked at his mushroom and then he looked at Aunt Lillibet’s mushrooms. Hers were absolutely perfect, every spot exactly the same size, the tops smooth and nicely curved. There were even tiny little ribs under the lid of the mushroom, all straight and even. Benson felt discouraged. His mushroom was just a mushroomy blob compared to hers. He squashed his mushroom down and started again.
Aunt Moss came into the kitchen. “Oh, what are you making? Mushrooms? They’re very nice, Lillibet. Can I make some too?”
“NO!” said Aunt Lillibet. “You’ll make a mess and you’ll take all the best colours. Besides, there’s not enough room at the table.”
Aunt Moss sat down at the table next to Benson. “There’s room over this side. You’re only using red and white anyway; you’re not using any of these colours.” Aunt Moss took the green and the blue and the black and the orange and the purple clay. She started to make a mushroom.
Benson stopped and watched her. She made a bright green mushroom with a purpley-orange stem. Then she made a pink mushroom with little horns on top.
Benson smiled and started his mushroom all over again. He put a little door in its top, with a little worm sticking out. Aunt Moss laughed, and made a blue mushroom with antlers and four legs, all different colours.
Lillibet said, “You’re doing it all wrong, Moss. That’s not how mushrooms look.”
“It’s how my mushrooms look,” Aunt Moss said. “Mushrooms can be any way you want them to be.”
“No, they can’t. They’re not mushrooms then,” Lillibet said. “You’re just being silly.”
“The trouble with you is, Lillibet, you have no imagination,” Aunt Moss said.
“The trouble with you is, you can’t get anything right!” Lillibet shouted. “You’re messing everything up. Why don’t you go away?” She banged the table.
Benson’s mother came in, to find out what the shouting and banging was about. She could see that Aunt Lillibet was very upset, and Moss was being difficult.
“I think it’s time for a cup of tea,” she said. “Aunt Moss, would you get the cups out for me? And cut some cake for everyone?”
Aunt Moss got up and went to get the cups. Benson’s mother sat down beside Aunt Lillibet. “Lillibet, these are beautiful. They’re perfect.”
Aunt Lillibet said, “I found some by the creek and I couldn’t pick them because they’re so poisonous, so I wanted to make some.”
“You wanted to make them so you would remember what they look like, so you don’t pick them by mistake?” Benson’s mother asked.
“No, because even though they’re poisonous, they’re beautiful. I can’t touch the real ones, but these ones I can,” Lillibet said.
Benson’s mother put one arm around Aunt Lillibet and gave her a little squeeze. “They look exactly like real ones.”
Benson gave a sigh, and squashed his mushroom down again.
His mother said, “What did you do that for, Benson? That was a very good mushroom.”
“No, it wasn’t,” Benson said. “It was silly. It didn’t really look anything like a mushroom. It looked like a bucket upside down.”
“That’s because you didn’t shape the top right,” Aunt Lillibet said. “You should roll it out flat first, and then curve up the edges, just a little bit, like this.” She helped him shape the top of the mushroom and balance it on the stem. It looked much more like a mushroom. Benson still wasn’t pleased.
“But it’s orange and blue,” Benson said, “and they’re not the right colours for mushrooms.”
“It’s not the colours that’s important, it’s the mushroom-i-ness,” Aunt Lillibet.
Aunt Moss came over, and looked at Benson’s mushroom, and Lillibet’s mushrooms, and her own mushrooms. “You know, you’re right, Lillibet. Your mushrooms are really really mushroomy. Mine are just a bit of fun, not really mushroomy at all. I think I’ll watch you make the next one, and see if I can learn how to do it better.”
“Good,” said Aunt Lillibet.
“But first let’s have tea and cake,” Benson’s mother said quickly.
When all the cake was gone, Moss sat down with Lillibet to learn how to make her mushrooms mushroomier.
Benson said quietly to his mother, “You know, Aunt Lillibet’s mushrooms are really good, but Aunt Moss’s make me feel happy, you know?”
Benson’s mother nodded. “I know what you mean.”
Benson said, “But Aunt Lillibet’s make me feel… different. Like there’s a new space inside my head I didn’t know was there.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” his mother said.