Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a warm, happy wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
Aunt Lillibet loved hats. She loved making hats, and decorating hats and wearing hats. Sometimes she would lie in bed at night and dream up new types of hats.
One hot, sunny afternoon, she was going outside to work in the garden. “I’d better wear my hat,” she said to herself. She put her new hat on, then she went into the kitchen to fill up her water-bottle. She went into the laundry to get her favourite trowel, then she went back to her room to get her gardening gloves. She got the carrot seeds she was going to plant, and then she was ready.
Benson’s mother came out to the kitchen. She said, “It’s very hot outside. Don’t you think you should wear your hat?”
“I am wearing it,” Aunt Lillibet said, but when she felt her head, she found she wasn’t. “Drat!” she said. “I had it a minute ago. Now where did I put it?”
She looked everywhere. “Where could I have left it?” she said.
“Maybe it flew off by itself,” Benson’s mother suggested.
“Don’t be silly,” Aunt Lillibet said. “Hats don’t fly.”
Benson’s mother wasn’t so sure. She remembered when Aunt Lillibet had made a hat out of a real bird’s nest with real eggs in it. When the eggs hatched, the baby birds flew off and took the hat with them.
Benson came out to get a snack from the fridge. “What are you looking for?” he asked.
“Aunt Lillibet’s lost her hat,” his mother said.
“Do you want me to help you look for it?” he asked. “I’m an excellent finder. I once found seven socks under my bed in one day, and an old sandwich.” It was the smell of the old sandwich that had made him look under the bed in the first place.
“Thankyou, Benson, that would be lovely,” his mother said.
“What does it look like?” he asked.
Aunt Lillibet said, “It’s very creative and daring, perfectly unique and original.”
Benson thought that wasn’t a very helpful description. It could look like anything. “Is this it?” he said, holding up a round thing that was blue and white, with orange spots and two horns.
“No, Benson, that’s a Viking helmet I’m knitting for Nanna,” Aunt Lillibet said, with a withering look. “It’s my hat we’re looking for. Try to concentrate.”
They kept looking. Benson’s mother found something under a chair that looked like a saucepan with three handles. “Is this it?” she said.
“No, that’s a saucepan with three handles,” Aunt Lillibet said. “Elton left it behind last time he visited. It doesn’t look anything like a hat!”
“Of course not,” Benson’s mother said. “I don’t know what I was thinking.”
Aunt Moss came in, looking sleepy after her nap. “Have you lost something?” she asked.
“Aunt Lillibet’s lost her hat,” Benson said.
“I put it down somewhere and now I can’t find it,” Aunt Lillibet said.
“Are you sure you’re not wearing it?” Aunt Moss said. “I’m always losing my glasses that way, and they’re on the end of my nose all the time.”
“Of course I’m not wearing it, Moss,” Aunt Lillibet said. “Can’t you see?”
“Oh, is that your hair?” Aunt Moss said.
“Why don’t you look in the laundry, Moss?” Benson’s mother said.
Aunt Moss went into the laundry. She came out in a minute and said, “Is this it?”
“No, Moss,” Aunt Lillibet said coldly. “That’s a broken plant pot.”
“Oh, I see that now,” Aunt Moss said, putting it down.
“Found it!” Benson said. He held up something the shape of a bucket, covered with paper streamers and rubber caterpillars.
“Don’t be silly, Benson,” Aunt Lillibet said. “That’s a model of a tropical island that I’m making for Earth Day. It’s obviously not a hat.” She took it away from Benson and looked at it admiringly. “Although come to think of it, it would make a very nice hat, with some chicken wire here and there.”
Benson said, “If you took the paper streamers and the caterpillars off, it would make a good bucket.”
Aunt Lillibet’s face started to go red. Benson’s mother said quickly, “You know what everyone says: beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
Benson said, “What does that mean? How can you have beauty in your eye?”
His mother said, “It means different things look beautiful to different people.”
Aunt Lillibet sniffed and said, “Sometimes I think no-one in this family has any taste at all, except me. Could we just focus on finding my hat for now? It must be here somewhere.”
All this searching was making Benson hungry, so he went to the fridge to get a carrot. There was a pile of burnt toast on a shelf in the middle of the fridge. “What’s this doing here?” he said. “Shouldn’t it be in the compost heap?”
“There it is!” Aunt Lillibet said, very pleased. “I knew I hadn’t lost it. I just put it somewhere.”
“This is your hat?” Benson said. It didn’t look a thing like a hat. It looked like a stack of very black toast.
Aunt Lillibet put it on her head and smiled. “It looks good on me, don’t you think?” she said.
Benson couldn’t think of anything to say that didn’t sound rude, so he didn’t say anything. His mother said, “It’s very original.”
Aunt Moss said, “It’s unique, and creative.”
“That’s just what I think,” Aunt Lillibet said, admiring herself in the mirror.
Benson’s mother said, “Lillibet, why did you put it in the fridge?”
“It’s hot outside,” Aunt Lillibet said. “This way I’ll have a nice, cool head when I work in the garden.” She put on her gardening gloves and got her seeds and her trowel and went off, wearing a pile of burnt toast on her head.