Aunts and Great-Aunts

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.

Benson had a friend called Roly, that he suspected of having Magical powers. He could remember everything, and he could find things without even looking for them. One morning Benson made spinach and zucchini pancakes and they were sitting at the table sharing the last one. Roly was being careful not to get maple syrup on the new jumper Aunt Moss had made for him. It had spikes knitted all over the back of it, to make him feel comfortable until his own spines grew back again.

Aunt Moss said, “Now where is my other knitting needle? I had it just a minute ago.” She was making him a matching hat.

Roly said, “It’s under the cushion on your chair.” And it was.

Aunt Lillibet said, “Has anyone seen the big baking dish I cooked the swede toasties in yesterday? I want to try out this recipe for pumpkin casserole with bull-ants.” Aunt Lillibet had been experimenting with lots of recipes with ants in them, but none of them had really been a success, Benson thought.

Roly said, “It’s in Benson’s room. He was licking it out after dinner.” And it was! Benson was amazed.

Roly even found out something Benson had never thought about.

“What’s an aunt?” Roly asked. “How do you get them?”

“It’s your mother’s sister, or your father’s sister,” Benson said.

Roly asked, “Are Aunt Lillibet and Aunt Moss your mother’s sisters or your father’s sisters?”

“I don’t know,” Benson said. When he thought about it, they were much, much too old to be his mother’s sisters. “Are they?” he asked his mother.

“Actually,” Benson’s mother said, “they’re your father’s aunties. They’re not your aunts, at all, they’re your great-aunts.”

“Then why don’t I call them great-aunts?” Benson asked.

“Sheer modesty,” said Aunt Lillibet.

“Lillibet thinks it would make us sound too old,” Aunt Moss said.

“Pish-tush!” said Aunt Lillibet.

Benson’s mother said, “Actually, sometimes people called older women ‘Aunty’ when they’re no relation at all, to be polite and show their respect.”

“Could I call you Aunty Lillibet?” Roly asked Aunt Lillibet, hopefully.

“No,” said Aunt Lillibet. “Definitely not.” Roly looked down, and a little tear rolled off the end of his snout. “You can call me Aunt Lillibet,” she said.

Roly smiled so hard his whole face beamed.

Aunt Lillibet said, “Now try these ant-and-cheese swirls and tell me what you think.”

Roly and Benson both tried one. Benson said, “I like the cheese part and the swirl part, but not the ant part so much.”

Roly said, “They’re very nice,” but his snout twitched when he tried to eat them.

Aunt Moss said, “Lillibet, I think it’s better for Roly if he just has fresh ants. A lot of the vitamins and minerals are lost when you cook them. Don’t you think, Roly?”

Roly nodded hard.

Aunt Lillibet looked disappointed. “No ant-and-raisin cookies?”

Benson’s mother said, “I don’t think so.”

“Or ant and banana smoothies?” Aunt Lillibet said.

Benson made an awful face.

“Or ant ice-cream?” Aunt Lillibet said.

“NO!” everyone said.

Aunt Lillibet took off her apron. She looked disappointed.

Roly said, “The chocolate-covered ants you made are very nice, though.”

Aunt Lillibet beamed. “Do you think so?” she said. “I’ll make some more, if you like them so much.”

Benson tried one. The chocolate was great, but when he got to the ant part, his whole face squinched up. He gave the ant to Roly, and Roly snuffled it up quickly before Aunt Lillibet could see.

Roly whispered, “It doesn’t matter what they say, they really are great aunts.”

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