Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in a safe, comfortable wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
At the beginning of the year, Aunt Lillibet gave Benson a present. “It’s a diary,” she said.
It was a book with no pictures, and no stories, just dates and days of the week in boxes on every page. “What’s a diary?” Benson asked.
“It’s to help you be more organised,” Aunt Lillibet said. “You write down the important things that happen each day, so you don’t forget.”
“What sort of things?” Benson said.
“All the important things you need to remember,” Aunt Lillibet said. “For instance, I write down all the things I’ve planted in the garden and what the weather’s like, and how many carrots came up this year and whether the cabbages were as big as last year – all sorts of interesting things.”
Benson couldn’t imagine a more boring book. He asked his mother, “Do you have a diary?”
“Yes,” she said. “It tells me what meetings I have to go to, and reminds me about birthdays and special celebrations. Sometimes I write down interesting things that have happened, like the big storm, and Nanna getting a new washing machine.”
Benson looked at his new diary, with all its blank pages. It was like a big empty year stretching out in front of him with nothing at all happening in it. It was so awful that he decided to do something about it straight away. He went and got his pencils.
He started on the first page, and he wrote, “Today.” He drew a picture of himself writing in his diary and drawing a picture of himself writing in his diary and drawing a picture. He turned over the page and wrote, ‘Tomorrow’. He drew a picture of himself writing ‘Tomorrow’ in his diary, and then he remembered that tomorrow he wouldn’t write ‘Tomorrow’ because it would be today tomorrow.
He thought about the next day and the next day, and he decided that after so much writing he would probably want to go outside and do some digging, so he wrote, ‘Digging’ and next to it he drew a big hole. It went under the clothesline, past the garden, under the fence, along to Roly’s best termite mound, past the fallen tree with the tree-house, around by the blackberry bushes and then home again.
It was such a good tunnel that it went over lots of pages. Benson found he was already up to next week. He remembered it was Roly’s birthday soon so he wrote ‘Roly’s birthday’ and he drew a picture of a cake. It was really hard deciding what kind of cake to draw, until he had a great idea. There were lots of birthdays in a year, and everyone could have a different cake.
He drew a marshmallow and pineapple cake for Aunt Lillibet’s birthday, and a mandarin caramel pillow cake for Aunt Moss. For his mother he drew an enormous chocolate-raspberry-raisin cake and he wrote ‘with silver sparkles on top’ because he didn’t have a silver pencil.
He thought Roly would probably like an ant cake, so he drew lots and lots of ants piled up in the shape of a cake. The ants kept walking off so he drew little tracks all over the page that overflowed onto the next page and the next page.
He stopped for a rest and got himself an apple and a drink of water. Keeping a diary took a lot of work, he thought.
He knew that winter was always in the middle of the year, so he opened the diary right in the middle of the book and wrote, ‘Winter. Wear warm socks and hat. Wear gumboots, if it rains.’ Gumboots made him think about sploshing in puddles so he drew big splotches of mud all over the next page. That made him think of soup, warm, steaming, delicious soup. He drew himself sitting at the table with his hat and his socks on, eating a big bowl of soup. He couldn’t remember if his favourite soup was leek and potato or tomato with beans, so he drew both, and then he drew a big plate of cornbread and a cup of hot chocolate, and then he drew himself lying down with a full tummy.
After winter came spring, so he drew all the flowers in the wild-flower garden and wrote their names beside them. After spring was summer, his favourite time of the year. He wrote down, ‘Go swimming. Dig. Eat watermelon. Go to creek. Dig. Go to playground. Ride bike. Dig.’ The list got longer and longer until he had to stop because he was at the back cover of the book.
He looked back through the diary. There were still lots of blank pages. That meant lots of room to try out things he’d always wanted to do. He wrote ‘hang-gliding’ on one page, and ‘sailing’ on another one and then his imagination went wild: ‘space travel’, ‘become invisible’, ‘rescue koalas from giant dinosaur’, ‘cook pavlova big enough for everyone we know’, ‘float on clouds’, ‘dig swimming pool for Nanna’, ‘fly helicopter’. Before long, every single page was filled up.
Benson put his head down on the table, exhausted. His mother came in to see what he was doing.
“I’m writing in my diary,” he said.
His mother picked it up and looked through all the pages. She said, “Some people write things down in their diary after they’ve done them, but this is a wonderful idea.” She turned to the page where it was her birthday and a smile spread over her face.
Underneath the picture of the cake, it said, ‘Have pancakes with lemon and sugar and butter. Go and see Nanna and have cake. Fly to Jupiter. Walk home in moonlight.’
She said, “It’s a long time to wait till my birthday. Why don’t we do this now?”
Benson jumped up, not tired any more.
His mother said, “Except for flying to Jupiter. I’m not sure how we’ll manage that. But we can talk about it.”
They had pancakes and made a chocolate-raspberry-raisin cake with silver sprinkles and took it to Nanna’s and had a lovely time eating it. They talked about flying to Jupiter all the way there, and all the way home again, in the moonlight.