Naming No Names

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.

One morning after breakfast, Aunt Lillibet said, “We’ve been invited to a naming party.”

“What’s that?” Benson asked. He was drawing a cockatoo but the ears weren’t coming out right.

“Remember my second-cousin, Bingo?” she said.

“Oh, yes!” said Aunt Moss. “I remember when Bingo got married to Bongo. It was such a beautiful wedding!” she sighed. Weddings always made Aunt Moss sigh.

“And now they’ve had a baby?” Benson’s mother asked.

“Yes, and they’d like the whole family to help name the baby,” Aunt Lillibet said.

“How lovely!” Aunt Moss said. “Everyone chooses such interesting names for babies nowadays, like ‘Goldie’, and ‘Angora’, and ‘Masala’. Such pretty names!”

“Is it a baby girl?” Benson asked.

“They’re not saying,” said Aunt Lillibet. “They don’t want to give the baby a name that sounds like a girl’s name, or a boy’s name, in case the baby may not like it when they’re older,” Aunt Lillibet said. “Why don’t people give their children proper names any more?”

“What’s a proper name?” asked Benson. He had figured out the ears, but the tail was giving him problems. He couldn’t remember which way the stripes should go.

“Proper names like we had when we were growing up, like George and Herbert and Cuddles,” said Aunt Lillibet.

Aunt Moss said, “Oh, Lillibet, nobody calls their children old-fashioned names like that any more!”

“How do people know what to call their babies?” Benson asked. He was very carefully drawing the cockatoo’s eyelashes.

“Nowadays they just make something up, like Blob or Sneeze,” said Aunt Lillibet.

Benson’s mother said, “I don’t think so, Lillibet. Sometimes they name them after someone else in the family. I remember when Benson was born, you wanted to name him after Uncle Lionel.”

“Lionel!” said Benson. He could NOT imagine himself as a Lionel. He asked his mother, “Why did you call me Benson?” He was using the side of his pencil to give the cockatoo long, wavy fur.

She said, “I thought of a few names I liked, and then you were born and I looked at you and Benson was the only name I could possibly call you. You were just…. Benson!”

Benson liked that idea very much.

“That’s not always such a good idea,” Aunt Moss said. “Remember when Elton was born, and his mother thought he looked exactly like a cute little piglet so she called him Little Oink.”

“Oink?” said Benson. “Uncle Elton’s real name is Oink?” He dropped all his pencils and rolled under the table laughing. “Oink! Oink, oink!”

“That’s what everyone said,” Aunt Lillibet said. “He changed it as soon as he was old enough.”

“Why did he choose Elton?” Benson asked. “Was it the name of someone famous?”

“No, I think it was his favourite fingernail-polish colour, Elton Pink,” his mother said.

“Arlette changed her own name, too,” Benson said, picking up his pencils. “It used to be Arnette, but she liked the curly loop in the ‘L’, so she changed it.”

“You changed your name too, didn’t you, Lillibet?” Aunt Moss said. “Your real name is – “

“That’s enough, thank you, Moss,” Aunt Lillibet said. “I didn’t change my name, I just decided to use my middle name instead. That’s perfectly all right.”

“What was your first name, Aunt Lillibet?” Benson asked.

“That’s best left in the past,” Aunt Lillibet said. “It didn’t suit me, and it was difficult for people to spell. No-one remembers it now, anyway.”

“Of course, Lillibet is a lovely name,” Aunt Moss said, “but I still like – “

“Moss! If you say one more word…!” Aunt Lillibet said threateningly.

“All right, Lillibet.” Aunt Moss closed her lips and locked them with her finger.

Benson’s mother helped him pick up his pencils. “What were you drawing?” she said.

“It’s a cockatoo in a zebra onesie,” he said.

“Does he have a name?” she asked.

Benson thought. “I think I’ll call him Louise,” he said.

The baby-naming party was more fun than Benson thought it would be, for something that was all about babies. All the family came, and everyone had their own ideas about what to name the baby.

Bongo said, “When the baby was born, we thought we would wait and let the baby choose their own name, but that didn’t work out too well.”

“Everyone kept calling the baby things like ‘Cutie-pie’ and ‘Sweetie’, and we didn’t want the baby to end up with a name like that,” Bingo said, with a shudder. “So we decided to hold a naming party and ask everyone to help.”

Uncle Elton said “Why don’t you call the baby after yourselves? Go-Go? Or Bing-Bong?”

Elmer started to giggle. “Like a door-bell!”

Bongo said, “We want the baby’s name to be special, not just a name like other people give their babies.”

Bingo said, “So we’ve made a list, and we’d like to hear what you think. The first name on the list is ‘Mood.'”

“Moo-ed,” said Benson, long and low. “Like a baby calf. Moooo-ed.”

Elmer started giggling again. Bingo crossed ‘Mood’ off the list. “The next name we thought of is ‘JJ’.”

“How do you spell that?” asked Aunt Lillibet. Bongo crossed it off the list.

“What about Jon?” Bongo asked.

“I’ve got an uncle called Jon,” two people said, and someone else said, “I knew a horse called Jonnie.” Bingo crossed ‘Jon’ off the list.

“That only leaves one name on the list,” Bongo said. “Actually it was our favourite anyway.” Bingo and Bongo looked at each other and smiled. “So we’re going to name our new baby, ‘Wombat.'”

Nobody knew quite what to say. Aunt Moss looked puzzled, and Aunt Lillibet looked disgruntled. Uncle Elmer said, “Is that even a name?”

Bongo held up the baby, who blinked and looked back at all the family. Benson went up and touched his nose against the baby’s nose. “Hello, little Batty! It’s nice to meet you.”

Everyone smiled and started talking at once. “Batty, that’s a cute name! Looks just like a Batty to me. Welcome to the family, Batty!”

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