A few weeks ago, I moved house. Not just a small move, either. Along with my husband and son, I packed our life into boxes and exchanged life in the UK for life in Australia.
The boxes will catch up with us eventually. We have been tracking their progress online, watching as our container ship makes its way across the world, hoping and praying for calm seas. Meanwhile, we have been living out of suitcases. Two suitcases each to last an indefinite number of months and at least one change of season — it’s not much. Each of us could choose only a few bits and pieces to help turn our temporary rental house into somewhere comfortable and cosy.
So it was with great, great joy that the day after we arrived — on the very first walk around our new neighbourhood — we found something that we knew would immediately make our new house feel like a home. A terramundi money pot for the mantelpiece.
We bought our first terramundi — a traditional Etruscan money pot — when I was pregnant. We didn’t know if our burgeoning bump was a boy or a girl — we referred to it only as “Bean.” But either way it seemed sensible to start saving for the future.
The tradition with a terramundi pot is that every time you have a new one, you write down a wish, and put that in with your first coin. So, sometime in late 2008, we wrote down our wish for a healthy, happy Bean to arrive safely, and popped in our first pennies. It fast became a habit, coming home from work or the supermarket and immediately emptying our loose change into the pot.
Over five years, we managed to fill eight pots. We filled each one to bursting, until they were a real struggle to carry. Each one was a different design, a different colour. There were stars and stripes and swirls, pinks, purples, browns and blues.
Each time we started a new one, we thought carefully about the wish to accompany that pot. If you laid those wishes out, chronologically, they would provide quite the insight into our life and priorities over the last five years.
They had already moved with us once, when we left Scotland for England two years ago.
“What the hell’s in this?” grunted the removal man, grimacing as he hauled a box of them up the stairs to our first floor flat.
But we decided they should not make the next move. Now that Bean is Tom, and he is four years old, we decided those pennies — and they are all for him — would be better off earning interest in the bank.
There seemed little point in hauling them 10,000 miles from the UK to Australia, just to sit on a shelf looking pretty.
So the time came for the smashing. Having seen photos of a friend doing the same, I knew the best way was to wrap them in a towel and bang down your hammer, before unwrapping the towel to revel the treasures and the terracotta shards within.
To begin with, I was strangely emotional about it all. We agreed to keep the very first pot we’d ever bought — a simple cream coloured one with a purple star — intact. I felt too odd at the thought of cracking it open and seeing that first little wish out in the open, because so much has changed since then.
But after the first cracking, it actually became quite easy. The pots gave a satisfying thunk as Tom brought the hammer down on them. We worked as a family to stack up the coins within, and then paid them into the bank, one pot at a time. And it put a huge smile on my face to see what we had wished for over the years. So many of them have come true.
By the time we had cracked pot number seven, and I had grown accustomed to seeing the amount in Tom’s bank account creeping up week-by-week, I was feeling less sentimental. When he begged me to let him break into the last one (or the first one, as it was). I relented, and brought it down from the shelf.
We wrapped it up in a beach towel, which was now stained brown with terracotta dust. He held the hammer in two hands, as we had shown him every time previously. And CRACK. He brought it heavily down on the pot.
Like all the others, it held a good amount, and we duly bagged it up and paid it in. But here is the funny thing. The wish had gone.
I was as baffled as Tom was. His favourite moment of each opening had been scrambling through the coins to find the piece of pale yellow card with my handwriting on it. He was fascinated by our wishes, and wanted to know exactly when we’d made them — whether he was still “in my tummy,” or a baby, or toddler, at the time of writing.
My husband and I both remember the moment clearly when we wrote that first wish and put it in the pot, and there is no possible way it could have fallen out, buried as it was under a heavy stack of coins.
The only explanation we could provide for Tom was that the moment that wish was granted, and we were blessed with a happy, healthy little Bean, the scrap of card must have disappeared from the pot like magic.
We are not sure what else to think.
Of course, the mystery of the disappearing wish has made him, and us, fall even further in love with the idea that every house should have a terramundi pot.
So when we were out strolling the streets of our new city and found a shop selling them, we let Tom choose one right away. It is a red and white striped one, and takes pride of place on the mantelpiece in his bedroom. Every day when we come home, we stick in our cents and dollars, and look forward to the day when Tom’s wish inside it will come true.
We have a terramundi, again, and we know that we are home.