Nuala McCann: Hard to say goodbye to the objects that bind you with love

Nuala McCann

Nuala McCann

Nuala McCann is an Irish News columnist and writes a weekly radio review.

A pair of Birkenstock sandals belonging to the late Apple founder Steve Jobs (pictured in 2010) has sold at auction for $218,000. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
A pair of Birkenstock sandals belonging to the late Apple founder Steve Jobs (pictured in 2010) has sold at auction for $218,000. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

It’s amazing what some folk will pay for an old pair of shoes.

Take Steve Jobs’ old Birkenstocks… at a price!

The “well-worn” pair of German sandals as owned by the co-founder of Apple have seen better days.

The suede is roughed up, there may be a whiff of Steve about them if you care to dip your nostrils inside and they make Hush Puppies look trendy.

The late Steve’s footwear of choice sold at auction for nearly $220,000 recently.

The auctioneers said that the cork and jute footbed still retained the imprint of Steve’s feet.

It’s the modern-day equivalent of Veronica’s veil for those worshipping at the shrine of Apple.

Apparently he wore them as he and co-founder Steve Wozniak slaved to found the empire that became Apple – he probably paced the floors of his parents’ old garage in them.

I know little about Jobs other than he founded Apple and had a penchant for black turtle necks (I watched the film), Levi jeans and Birkenstocks – even in winter.

There are those in this house who are firmly in the Wozniak camp – he the man, they say… no harm to the late Steve Jobs and all of that.

But it’s strange what people will pay to hold on to a little of their heroes.

Items that have sold for most in recent years include the iconic ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz; the skin-tight leather trousers worn by Olivia Newton-John in Grease; Darth Vader’s helmet and Michael Jackson’s black velvet jacket and fedora.

Apparently several other pairs of the ruby slippers exist and, indeed, one pair was stolen in 2005 and recovered by the FBI in 2018.

Somebody must have stepped into them, clicked their heels and ended up miles from Kansas with a Tin Man for company.

Holding on to such relics feels like a new form of a very old religion.

In the days of the crusades, relics were big.

They say that if all the wood from the true cross on which Jesus was crucified was brought into one place, it would be enough to make several crosses.

Google “wood of true cross” - it’s amazing what you can buy.

I have no truck with any stranger’s old shoes.

Still, it is not difficult to grasp the power we invest in the things that our loved ones leave behind.

We keep shirts and blouses hanging in the wardrobe long after their owners have gone… step in, bury your face in the lingering essence of them, feel the ghost of the person close by.

For years after he died, my father’s old brown raincoat and walking stick hung in the cloakroom at home.

It was as if he had just nipped down to Madge Law’s for the Irish News… he’d be back any minute.

His old Russian hat sat on the shelf. It was a hit among men of a certain age back in the 1970s. It was suede with an edge of black fur.

When he came to Central Station to pick me up from the train in student days, he’d be standing at the turnstile on a winter’s morning looking like an extra from a Cold War thriller … waving from the far end of the Glienicke bridge, the Bridge of Spies.

And I’d wave back and think, hooray, hello my dad, hello home, hello warmth and food and easy access to a washing machine with a spin function

Goodbye freezing flat, 15 black mice and icy fridge of the lonely sausage.

His old brown raincoat hung in our cloakroom for years after he died until it went mouldy and my mother decided it had to go.

Letting go is a theme among friends as we grow older.

We call it ‘getting rid’ but it is really letting go.

It’s hard to say goodbye to the objects that bind you with love.

We foist things on others saying: “This is good, you would like this,” it salves the guilt.

I have a set of ma’s mules – about as fashionable as the old Russian hat – that travel everywhere in the boot of my car.

They’re dainty - she was very proud of her size 3 feet.

When I throw open the boot, the mules whisper: “I’ve just gone out to the garden… I’ll be back for a cup of tea, a buttered digestive and two fat raisins.”

I wouldn’t swap those mules for all the Steve Jobs’ Birkenstocks in the world.