Birthday Races

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

It was nearly Aunt Lillibet’s birthday, but she wasn’t looking forward to it. “I don’t want another birthday,” she said. “I feel so old!”

Benson was surprised. Aunt Lillibet WAS old. She was very old. Benson wondered if she could actually get any older. Her age would go up, but she would still look the same. He couldn’t imagine her looking any older. Very old looked a lot like very very old.

His mother said, “You’re not feeling old, Lillibet, you’re feeling tired! Remember you spent the morning chasing bush rats out of the garden and repairing the fence, and then you dug up the garden for the new potatoes, and after that you helped Uncle Elton re-build his rock wall. And this afternoon there was your folk-dancing class! No wonder you’re tired!”

But Aunt Lillibet had gone to sleep in her chair and didn’t hear her.

On the day of her birthday, Aunt Lillibet wanted to stay in bed and wait for it to be over. She pulled the covers up over her head and said, “I’m having a sleep-in. I’m going to sleep until tomorrow and then I won’t have a birthday at all.”

Benson said, “Don’t worry, Aunt Lillibet, you don’t look any older than you did yesterday. You still look very old.”

Ant Lillibet groaned and put her head under her pillow.

Benson’s mother said, “You have to get up, Lillibet. We’ve got a surprise for you. All your friends are coming over to help celebrate your birthday.”

Aunt Lillibet just said, “Humph.”

Benson’s mother said, “Aunt Moss has made you a beautiful zucchini and coconut cake.”

Aunt Lillibet grumped again.

Benson’s mother said, “But before we have cake, we’re going to play lots of games.”

Aunt Lillibet said grumpily, “Games, humph! I don’t want to play silly games at my age.”

When all her friends arrived, she was so grumpy she hardly even smiled.

Benson’s mother said to everyone, “We’re very glad you all came. Now we’re going to start with some fun games.”

Aunt Lillibet said, “Humph!” very loudly.

Benson’s mother took no notice of her. “The first game,” she said, “is a dibbling race.” She gave everyone a long, pointed stick and said, “You have to make a neat row of holes, plant a seed in each one, and cover it over with dirt. Ready, set, go!”

Everyone fell over each other, poking holes in the dirt and each other’s feet, putting their seeds in upside down and forgetting to cover them with dirt. Aunt Lillibet went ‘dib, dib, dib’ and made ten exact holes in a row, planted ten seeds and covered them up neatly. She won by miles.

The prize was a basket of strawberries, and she ate them all up.

Benson’s mother said, “Now we’re going to have a race to see who can build a wall the fastest. Here are your stones. The person with the highest, straightest wall wins. Ready, set, go!”

Everybody started piling stones on top of each other. Some people dropped stones on their toes, or other people’s toes. Mick and Bonnie Lou made a swimming pool instead of a wall. Uncle Elton’s wall was enormously high, but then Elmer sneezed and it fell down.

Aunt Lillibet went ‘plock, plock, plock, plock, plock,’ and built a perfectly straight wall that was the highest by miles. She won a very handsome pumpkin.

Benson’s mother said, “Next we’re going to have a knitting contest.” She gave everyone some needles and some wool. “Ready, set, go!”

Aunt Lillibet cast on thirty stitches and started knitting. Aunt Moss said, “Oh dear, where are my glasses?” Benson and Mick got so tangled up in the wool they looked like they’d been caught in a giant spider’s web. Mr Fenn knitted very fast, but he didn’t cast on enough stitches so he ended up with a very very long string. When Benson’s mother said it was time to stop, Aunt Lillibet had knitted a very neat pot-holder. She was easily the winner.

The prize was a pair of pineapples. Aunt Lillibet was very pleased.

Benson’s mother said, “Our last game is to see who can make the best pikelets. Ready, set, go!”

Benson held up his hands. “Wait!” he said. “I don’t think this game is fair. Everyone knows that Aunt Lillibet makes the best pikelets.”

Aunt Lillibet started to look grumpy again. She liked winning all the prizes.

Benson kept talking. “I think, for this game, Aunt Lillibet should be the judge instead.”

Aunt Lillibet smiled very happily. “Good idea!” she said.

Everyone set to work making batches of pikelets: caramel pikelets, and apple and cinnamon pikelets, and strawberry ricotta pikelets, and rhubarb and ginger pikelets. Aunt Lillibet sat in the middle and tasted one out of every single batch and told everyone what she thought of them.

In the end she decided that her friend Rebekah’s were the best and she gave her the pumpkin as her prize. Then they all sang ‘Happy Birthday’ and ate birthday cake and Aunt Lillibet made a speech and thanked everyone for coming.

Rebekah said, “This was so much fun, Lillibet, we should do it every year!”

Aunt Lillibet said, “Definitely! I can’t wait for my next birthday!”

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