When I was a kid we would walk to the grocery store and along the way we would pass a particular tree. It was far enough away that I wasn't able to get there on my own so it was a special occasion when I saw it. It was, I was convinced, the coolest tree in the world because it produced these amazing seed pods: purplish-brown, long, flat and twisty.
There was always the issue of how many seed pods I would be allowed to trundle home. Forty, I felt, was a good number - two was my mother's limit.
We would walk home to the steady buzz of my maraca pod - the dried seeds rattling rhythmically in their cases. The sheer joy of noise-making could last for over an hour, but finally I would have to give in to temptation and break the pod apart. There were ten or so seeds inside - beautifully smooth and hard enough to make a satisfying "tock" when they knocked against each other in my pocket. They were gold doubloons, the rajah's jewels, desperately needed medicine that would cure all ills.
The house next door to us has one of these trees, and for the last several weeks it has been shedding thousands of these foot-long pods onto the driveway and into the narrow space beside the house. They are too heavy to sweep properly, too flat to rake easily. Every time I drive up to the house I can hear the pods cracking and shredding beneath the tires, grinding into the pavement so they have to be painstakingly picked off by hand. I glared up at that darn tree the other day and realized it had only shed about half of its load despite the heavy winds we have had; I just know it's waiting until I have everything all tidied away to release the rest. I have thought some dark and horrible things about that tree.
On Friday afternoon I saw the neighbor's kid outside. He had two pods stuck into a scarf he had tied around his head, another one acting as a tail and several more clutched in his hands. He was careening around the yard, a wobbly, loopy dance done to a steady rattle. Dizzy, he fell over on the prickly, dried grass and shrieked with laughter, still shaking his hands wildly.
Everyone should have a tree like that.