The New Baby

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

Benson’s mother and Aunt Lillibet and Aunt Moss were cooking, and Benson was playing one of his favourite games, Guess-What’s-Cooking-by-the-Smell-in-the-Kitchen.

“Is it banana bread, and apple pie?” he said.

“Close,” Aunt Lillibet said. “Banana cake, with walnuts and cranberries.”

“And baked apples with cinnamon and sultanas,” Aunt Moss said. “What an excellent nose you have, Benson!”

Benson sniffed happily. “Are we eating them for lunch or afternoon tea?” he asked.

“Neither,” his mother said. “We’re taking them over to Rodney’s place. His mother just had a new baby.”

“Another baby?” Benson said. “Everyone’s always having babies. Why do we have to give them all the best food? Babies don’t even eat cake!”

“Benson,” his mother said, “every new baby is a wonderful gift. A new little person in the world is always something to celebrate. Who knows what they might grow up to be? Maybe a famous writer!”

“Or an engineer,” Aunt Lillibet said.

“Or an artist,” Aunt Moss said.

Benson sighed. Babies were just blobs, he thought. Sometimes they were noisy blobs and sometimes they were smelly blobs, but they were always just blobs.

“Are you coming to see the baby?” his mother asked.

“Absolutely,” Benson said, thinking about the banana cake and the baked apples they were taking, not to mention the food that the other visitors would be bringing. “I wouldn’t miss it,” he said.

When they got to Rodney’s house, the baby was asleep, so Benson had to be quiet. He got some of the banana cake and a whole pile of sandwiches and went outside. He took them around to the back door where there was a nice sunny spot to eat them in and he could make as much noise as he liked. The back door was open, and someone was throwing books and pillows and toys and all sorts of good stuff out the door. It was Rodney’s sister, Ada.

She climbed on top of the pile of stuff and sat down with her arms folded, looking extremely grumpy.

“What are you doing?” Benson asked, eating the banana cake.

“When you get a new baby, you have to throw out all the old stuff, to make space for the new stuff,” she said. “Like me.”

“They’re throwing you out?” Benson said.

“They might as well,” Ada said. “Rodney’s the eldest, so they’ll keep him, but now there’s a new baby sister, what do they want me for?”

Benson said, “Ada, every baby wombat is a special gift. You were a baby wombat once, so you’re a gift too.” He wondered if he had said it right. It didn’t sound the same as when his mother said it.

“Nobody wants me,” Ada said. “Everything’s about the baby. The baby’s so cute, she’s the most beautiful thing in the world, be quiet the baby’s sleeping, I can’t play with you now because I’m busy with the baby. What sort of a name is Rosebud, anyway?”

Benson didn’t know what to say. “The thing is,” he said, “mothers go a bit weird when there are babies around. Even Aunt Lillibet and Aunt Moss. I don’t really understand it. What’s cute about a baby? They can’t talk, or ride a bike, or dig.”

“They can’t play games,” Ada said. “All they do is cry and sleep.”

They both thought about babies. Ada had one of Benson’s sandwiches.

She said, “If a giant eagle flew over right now and picked me up and flew away with me, I bet my mother wouldn’t even notice I was gone.”

Just then a giant eagle, floating overheard, saw two plump young wombats sitting in the sun. It zoomed down out of the sky.

“An eagle!” Benson yelled.

“My baby!” came a cry from inside the door. Ada’s mother rushed out and grabbed her.

Benson threw the rest of the sandwiches at the eagle and they all ran inside.

The eagle landed and pecked at the sandwiches. “Cheese and fennel, yuck!” he said, and flapped away.

Ada’s mum said, “Where have you been, sweetheart? I’ve been looking everywhere for you.” She wrapped Ada in a big, warm hug.

Ada smiled up at her. “I was just explaining to Benson about babies,” she said.

Her mother said, “The baby’s awake now, and everyone says she looks just like her big sister. Do you want to come and hold her?”

Ada nodded. “Thanks for the sandwiches, Benson,” she said. Then she ran inside, yelling, “I’m coming, Rosie!”

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