Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a warm, tidy wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
Benson asked his mother one day, “Why do people cry?”
His mother said, “I wish I knew! It’s a mystery to me.”
Aunt Moss said, “People cry when they get emotional.”
Aunt Lillibet said, “That’s no help. When people say they get emotional, they just mean they cry. It doesn’t explain why they cry.”
Benson’s mother said, “Some people never cry, and some people are always crying, for no reason at all.”
Aunt Moss said, “I think it’s a bit like a dam. All your feelings build up and up, and then they overflow in tears, like water flows over a dam wall.”
Aunt Lillibet said, “Some people have a very low dam wall, then.”
“People cry for different reasons,” Benson’s mother said. “People cry when they’re sad or upset, or even when they’re happy, sometimes.”
“Tears of joy,” Aunt Moss agreed.
“You can be bored to tears,” Aunt Lillibet said.
Benson said, “I think I made Bonnie Lou cry.”
“Did you hurt her?” Aunt Lillibet said. “Did you hit her or pull her hair?”
“No,” said Benson, “of course not.”
His mother said, “Tell me what happened.”
Benson said, “Well, when I was over at Mick’s place, Mick took Bonnie Lou’s favourite pencil. It had two colours together in one pencil, pink on one side and green on the other side, so she thought it was pretty special. Mick grabbed it and he wouldn’t give it back.”
“Did Bonnie Lou cry because she was angry?” Aunt Lillibet asked.
“No,” Benson said, “she yelled at him and hit him with her teddy-bear. I tried to get the pencil back, and it kind of snapped in half.”
“Did Bonnie Lou cry because she was upset?” Benson’s mother asked.
“No,” Benson said, “she yelled at me instead. So I got a pink pencil and a green pencil and sticky-taped them together so it was like a pink and green pencil, but it didn’t really work.”
“Did Bonnie Lou cry because she was disappointed?” Aunt Moss asked.
“No,” Benson said, “she just looked kind of sad. So I put Mick’s furry gloves on and pretended I was a gorilla, and jumped up and down and went ‘Ooh-ooh-ah-ah’ like a gorilla, to make her laugh.”
“Did she laugh until she cried?” Aunt Lillibet asked.
“No,” Benson said, “she just laughed a lot.”
“So then what happened?” his mother said.
“We all had some apple and blackberry juice and cookies and then it was time to go home. When I was saying goodbye, I gave her a little pat, just gently, and said I was sorry about her pencil, and she burst into tears! Why would she do that?”
No-one said anything. Benson looked at his mother. Her eyes were full of tears, and so were Aunt Moss’s. Even Aunt Lillibet was sniffling. Benson shrugged and went outside to dig.