Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in a very nice wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
Benson was making a banana sandwich for himself and Aunt Moss.
“Bananas are such a happy fruit,” Aunt Moss said. “They’re always smiling.” She held up a banana, the curvy way up, and smiled.
Aunt Lillibet was in a grumpy mood. “Oh Moss, you’re always so cheerful, for no reason at all!” she said. “What a ridiculous thing to say!”
She took the banana from Aunt Moss and turned it upside down. “There,” she said, “now it’s frowning. Why do you always have to look on the bright side of things?”
“I don’t know, Lillibet,” Aunt Moss said. “I suppose I think there’s enough sadness in the world, so I just want to notice the happy things whenever I see them.”
“You’re just being silly,” Lillibet said. She chopped the banana in half and stamped off to her room.
Aunt Moss said sadly, “Now I’ve upset her. I’m such a silly goose.” She went off to her room too.
Benson ate the sandwich by himself. He thought to himself while he was eating.
He thought about looking at things in a happy way, or in an angry way, or in just an ordinary way. He looked at a painting that he had painted that his mother had put on the fridge, of himself holding his mother’s hand. His mother said it always made her happy to look at it. It was just an ordinary painting, a bit blobby where the brown had run into the green at the bottom. How could a painting make you happy?
He went into his room and looked at his books, and his favourite pillow and his orange gumboots. He always felt happy in his room, or when he put his gumboots on. But now they looked like perfectly ordinary gumboots, next to perfectly ordinary books. He started to feel sad and kind of grey inside.
His mother came in, and said, “Are you okay, Benson? You don’t look happy.”
He said, “Aunt Lillibet says it’s silly to feel happy for no reason.” He told her what Aunt Lillibet had said. His mother sat on the bed beside him.
“What do you think?” she said.
“I don’t know,” he said. “That painting on the fridge, why does it make you happy?”
His mother smiled. “It reminds me of you, and how much I love you, and how happy I am that you love me, so every time I see it, it makes me feel warm and happy. It’s not the painting, it’s the remembering.”
Benson thought about it. “That’s not silly,” he said.
“No,” said his mother. “It’s not silly to remember that people love you, and to be glad that you are with people you love.”
Benson looked at his gumboots. “You gave me my gumboots because you know orange is my favourite colour,” he said.
“Yes,” said his mother. “They had grey ones and green ones but I chose the orange ones because I knew it would make you happy.”
Benson smiled. His room felt bright and cheerful again, full of things he loved, and things that people he loved had given him. “I think Aunt Moss needs a hug,” he said.
“I think so too, and I think Aunt Lillibet needs a hug,” his mother said. “Sometimes she just gets like this, kind of … difficult.”
Benson didn’t really want to try hugging Aunt Lillibet when she was being difficult. He had a better idea. He went outside and collected all the gum leaves he could find, and a whole lot of curvy sticks, and some birds’ feathers that were curvy too. He brought them all in and stuck them all over the walls, all curvy way up.
When Aunt Moss saw it, she smiled all over her whole body. “Benson,” she said, “this is like being in the middle of a great big hug.”
When Aunt Lillibet came out, she stopped and looked at the walls covered in smiles. She was surrounded with smiles. She turned around and around, and gradually her face started to crease up. But instead of smiling, she started to cry. “I’m sorry, Moss,” she said, “you’re not silly. You’re perfectly right. I should try not to be such a grumpy old thing.”
Benson said, “You’re not a grumpy old thing, Aunt Lillibet. You’re just a bit…difficult, sometimes.” And he gave her a hug.