Kim Henderson: Finding family heirlooms on Ebay

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, November 5th. You’re listening to The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. Good morning! I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. WORLD Commentator Kim Henderson now on marking the time. All sorts of time.

KIM HENDERSON, COMMENTATOR: Anything from Switzerland is the stuff.

My son’s making this point as he shows us his latest eBay purchase, an Omega Seamaster DeVille—some sort of vintage timepiece.

We’re locked in on his every word because he’s the firstborn and he’s home for a visit and occasions like this make parents want to go kill the fatted calf.                           

So I’m listening and admiring the face (on the watch), but with the way my mind works, I’m still wondering why Switzerland is the stuff. Isn’t it supposed to be neutral? My son is catching me up on the culture, though, so I have to stay focused.

That’s when he pops out another point, and I’ve known him long enough to tell right away it’s not original. He’s quoting some guy he heard on “Shark Tank.”

So this shark from the show says, “You can tell a lot about a man from the shoes he’s wearing and the watch he has on.”

Hmmm. I think of some of the men in my life. They wear boots with soles worn out from work and watches that have to be waterproof because they work up a sweat while they’re wearing out their soles.

I nod. Yes, you can indeed tell a lot about a man from his shoes and his watch. 

By then the firstborn is talking with his dad about the weather in Memphis, but I’m having trouble focusing again because he showed me the back of the Omega Seamaster Deville. There’s an inscription. Which leads me to wonder: Just who was Jasper M. Griffin, and why is my son in possession of his 62-year-old watch?

There’s not much to go on, and what little there is requires my highest-strength reading glasses to make out. Jasper M. Griffin May 30th, 1957 office staff.

I’m fascinated by the fact that some man whose loyal service earned him a 14K gold, automatic Swiss-made reward let it go at some point. Did it slip off while he walked his dog through Central Park? Were there hospital bills to pay after his wife’s surgery? Was it stolen from a hotel room in Albuquerque while he traveled on “office staff” business? 

But maybe it wasn’t even Jasper who let it go. Maybe he had held onto it until the very end. Maybe an inheriting nephew simply preferred a Timex. 

My son notices I’m absorbed, and when he finds out why, he admits he was, too. “Looked him up already,” he says, and with a simple shake of his head, I realize I’ll probably never know Jasper’s real story. I just hope it included some heavenly treasure, the kind that rust doesn’t destroy and isn’t for sale to the highest eBay bidder. 

There’s a new band on the watch, and my son tells us this Omega is a keeper. “One to pass on to my grandchildren,” I think is what he said. I’ve got to believe Jasper M. Griffin would like that.  

After all, anything from Switzerland is the stuff.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Kim Henderson.

Creative Commons/Slices of Light

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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