A Place of Your Own

Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a comfortable wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.

One morning Benson said to his mother, “I’m thinking of getting my own place.”

“Oh,” said his mother. “Are you?”

“I think I’m old enough to have a place of my own, don’t you?” Benson asked.

His mother considered. “It’s not really about age,” she said. “It’s more about responsibility. Are you ready for the responsibility?”

Benson said, “I think so.” Then he said, “What is responsibility, again?”

His mother stopped peeling apples and sat down.

“Responsibility is being able to look after yourself and still be able to look after other people. It’s about looking after yourself and your own things, and trusting yourself, and seeing what needs to be done and not leaving it to someone else. Do you understand?”

Benson said, “A bit. Not much.”

She explained some more. “You know when the garbage needs emptying, or the washing needs to be done, or there’s broken glass on the footpath, and you think Someone Else will do it – Someone Else will empty the bin and do the washing and pick up the broken glass or clean the rubbish out of the creek or make the dinner or push little Zip on the swing. Being responsible is being the Someone Else.”

Benson said, “It doesn’t sound like much fun. I thought having my own place would be more fun.”

“What do you want your place to be like?” asked his mother.

Benson had thought about this. He said, “It would have a really big library with comfy chairs, and cushions on the floor for the little ones, and maybe a great big underground terrarium where frogs could come on holidays, and a big bath that’s green with stones in the bottom like the creek, with room for all the turtles. And a kitchen with a big, big, big fridge with room for lots of custard and blueberry yoghurt because that’s Mick’s favourite, and ice cream and lillypillly jelly for Zali. And a compost bin because we would use leaves for plates and giant gum-nuts for cups then we wouldn’t have to wash up. We could just put them in the compost.”

“You know,” said his mother, “that sounds like a place I would like to live in.”

“You can come and visit any time you want,” said Benson, “and Nanna can come because she would like to see the turtles, and talk to the frogs.”

Benson’s mother said, “It sounds like a great idea. When were you thinking of starting?”

“Oh, about now,” Benson said. He got up and went into his room. His mother waited for him to come out and say goodbye, but he didn’t come out.

She went into his room. “Do you need some help packing?” she asked.

Benson was in a corner of the room digging. He stopped for a minute and said, “Packing what?”

His mother said, “I thought you were leaving home to get your own place?”

Benson said, “Oh, no, I’m not leaving home. I’m just going to make more home here, and make it my own place.”

His mother sat down on the bed. “Let me think about this,” she said. Benson went on with his digging.

After a while his mother said, “If I had a place of my own, it would have a kitchen big enough for everyone to cook in at the same time, and a quiet space a long way away from everyone else where I could learn to play the harp or the accordion, and a big pantry with jars and jars of apricot jam and pickles and preserved lemons.”

She kissed Benson on the top of his head, and went into the kitchen to start digging.

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