Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a nice, cosy wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
Benson had a secret. It was such a good secret, he could hardly stop himself talking about it.
“You’re going to love it,” he said to his mother, and then he clapped his hand over his mouth.
His mother was busy working. She looked up from her papers and said, “What am I going to love?”
“Nothing,” Benson said. He really really meant not to say anything, but he couldn’t help himself. The words just came bursting out. “What I’m giving you for Mother’s Day,” he said. Then he put both hands over his mouth to try and stop any more words coming out.
“Is it a surprise?” his mother said.
Benson still had his hands over his mouth, so he just nodded.
“You don’t want me to know?” his mother asked.
The words came bursting out again. “It’s really special! I thought of it all by myself,” he said.
“Stop!” his mother said, putting her hands over her ears. “Don’t say any more!”
“I can’t help it,” Benson said.
“Why don’t you go and tell someone else?” his mother suggested. “Tell Aunt Moss.”
“No, Aunt Moss wouldn’t remember it was a secret and she’d start talking about it in the middle of something,” Benson said.
“Well, tell Aunt Lillibet then,” his mother said.
“Aunt Lillibet can’t keep a secret!” Benson said. “She thinks if she tells someone the secret and tells them not to tell anyone, it’s the same as keeping the secret.”
Benson’s mother thought. “When I was little,” she said, “if I had a secret that was just bursting out of me, I used to go to a big old gum tree in the back yard and tell the old tree all about it.”
“A tree?” Benson said. “A tree can’t hear you.”
“Don’t you believe it,” his mother said. “A tree can be a very good listener.”
Benson thought it was a pretty silly idea, but the secret got harder and harder to keep, so he decided to give it a try. He found an old red gum in the middle of a clearing, with no bushes around where anybody could be hiding. He looked behind the tree and up in the branches to make sure there weren’t any birds or possums or anything listening. Then he sat down under the tree and told the tree all about his secret.
The very next day Aunt Moss said to him, “Oh, Benson, what a lovely idea! Your mother will love it!”
Benson said, “How did you find out about my secret?”
“Lillibet told me,” she said. “But don’t worry, she told me it was a secret and not to tell anyone else.”
Just then, Aunt Lillibet came out of her room. Benson said to her, “Did you tell Aunt Moss my secret?”
Aunt Lillibet looked a bit guilty. “She promised not to tell anyone,” she said.
“How did you find out about it?” Benson asked. “I must have been talking to a leaky tree.”
“Everyone knows,” Aunt Lillibet said. “I heard it at my sewing group this morning. Nella’s mother said that Nella heard it from a couple of crickets who were under the bark of the tree. You know how crickets are. They can never keep a secret.”
Just then Benson heard his mother coming. “Don’t say a word to her!” he whispered to Aunt Moss and Aunt Lillibet.
“Cross my heart,” Aunt Lillibet said solemnly. “Unless Nella’s mother says something, or Teresa or Delia or Gordon, and then I can’t promise anything.”
“Oh dear!” said Aunt Moss. “I hope I don’t forget and let something out without thinking!”
Benson’s mother came into the kitchen. She was wearing big pink fluffy ear-muffs over her ears.
Aunt Lillibet said, “Why are you wearing those ear-muffs?”
Benson’s mother didn’t hear her.
Aunt Lillibet stood in front of her and shouted.
Benson’s mother said, “Sorry, Lillibet, I can’t hear you.”
Aunt Lillibet said, “Take those ear-muffs off and you’ll be able to hear me!”
Benson’s mother said, “It’s no use talking to me, I can’t hear a thing with these ear-muffs on. I’m going to keep them on until Mother’s Day, so I don’t accidentally hear anything and spoil the surprise.”
“That’s just being silly,” Aunt Lillibet said.
“I’m sorry, Lillibet, I can’t hear a word you’re saying,” Benson’s mother said.
She kept the ear-muffs on all the time except when she was in the shower, and then she sang very loudly so that she couldn’t hear what anybody was saying.
On Mother’s Day she finally took them off. The first thing she heard was Benson saying, “Happy Mother’s Day!”
She gave him a hug and said, “Now, do you want to tell me your secret?”
He nodded. “I made up a song for you.” And he sang it to her.
“I’m a little wombat, short and round.
I love to dig big holes in the ground.
But my very favourite thing to do
is to tell you, I love you!”
Benson’s mother was so happy she cried. “That’s the nicest song anyone has ever made up for me,” she said. “I love it!”
Aunt Lillibet said she thought it was very nice, and Aunt Moss cried too.
Benson’s mother said, “It makes me want to sing a song to you too.” So she did.
“I’m a mother wombat, big and strong.
You make me happy, all day long.
You’re my favourite wombat, because you’re you!
Most of all, I love you too!”
Benson was amazed. “That’s a very good song, nearly as good as mine,” he said. He sang his song again to see and he agreed with himself. Everyone clapped and Aunt Moss cried again.
Then Benson’s mother said, “I know, let’s go and sing it for Nanna!” So they did, and she loved it too.