Dancing with Potatoes

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

At breakfast time, Aunt Lillibet said, “The potatoes are ready for harvesting. It’s going to be a big job, digging all those potatoes out of the ground. Who’s going to help me?”

Aunt Moss said, “I’m sorry, Lillibet, I promised Teresa that I’d babysit little Zip this morning, while she takes Zali to the dentist.”

Benson’s mother said, “I can’t help you either, I’m sorry, Lillibet. I’m giving a talk to the organic gardening group about mulching. But Benson can help you.”

Benson tried to think of a good excuse really fast, but he couldn’t think of anything.

“All right, Benson?” Aunt Lillibet asked.

“All right,” he agreed reluctantly.

Digging up potatoes was hard work, very dirty and very tiring. There were piles and piles of potatoes, from really big ones all the way down to tiny ones, and after they were all dug up, Benson had to scrub the dirt off them all.

When his mother got home, Benson was lying flat on the floor in his bedroom, covered in dirt. His mother said, “That’s a fantastic pile of potatoes! You’ve done a wonderful job!”

Benson groaned and said, “My back hurts. My arms and my legs hurt. Everything hurts! I never want to see another potato again!”

His mother said, “Don’t say that, Benson. Potatoes are an excellent food, full of goodness. They’re a gift from the earth.”

Benson said, “I don’t care. They’re dirty, and heavy and I hate them! Never make me eat potatoes again!”

His mother looked at him thoughtfully. “Hmmm,” she said. “You know what I think we should do? We should have a potato party.”

Benson said, “If you’re going to have a party and invite a whole pile of potatoes, I’m not going.”

His mother said, “I don’t think you’ll want to miss this party.”

First thing in the morning, she and Aunt Moss set to work in the kitchen. They cooked and baked and stirred and peeled and fried. Aunt Lillibet sliced and chopped and boiled and measured. Delicious smells filled the kitchen and spread to Benson’s room. He came out to the kitchen and sniffed.

“What are you cooking?” he asked.

“Potatoes,” his mother said.

“Potatoes and what?” he said.

“Just potatoes,” she said. “We’re having a potato party.”

Benson looked at the piles of delicious food, golden and crisp, creamy and fluffy, and he breathed in the wonderful smells. He said, “Can I come?”

His mother let him get the plates and cups and spoons ready, and they spread out picnic blankets and put chairs under the trees.

By lunchtime, the back yard was filled with people eating and having a wonderful time. There were potato chips and baked potatoes and mashed potatoes, and a big pot of leek and potato soup, and potato straws and potato latkes and potato samosas, and golden potato bake with cheese, and potatoes in their jackets with sour cream and parsley. Zali’s mum, Teresa, even brought her special potato salad. It was so good it was all gone before she even put the bowl down.

Benson ate so much he thought he couldn’t eat another thing, but then Mick’s mother, Delia, brought her potato ginger cake and Mr Fenn brought a whole pile of potato scones with jam. Benson found he did have some space left in his tummy after all.

Nanna got out her violin and Mr Fenn went home and got his guitar, and everyone sang songs about hot potatoes, and danced a funny dance called the Mashed Potato, and played ‘One-potato Two-potato’, and had potato-and-spoon races, and potato-sack races. Nobody went home until the very last scrap of potato was gone.

When Benson’s mother was tucking him into bed that night, he said, “I think wombats are a bit like potatoes, don’t you? They live underground, and they’re brown and a bit lumpy.”

His mother smiled. Benson said, “Do you think I’m a gift from the earth?”

His mother said, “I’m not sure about that, but you’re certainly a gift.” She kissed him on the end of his nose. “Good night, my little potato,” she said.

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