“The Secret of the Lava-Lamp”

In my peripheral vision, I saw a flash of yellow then heard it shatter to pieces. I knew that was going to happen. Put a totally groovy lava-lamp on a shelf out of reach, add a visible, hanging cord and a over-stimulated kitten, and you have your next disaster. As I was cleaning up the mess and mourning the loss of a vital piece of my ’70s pop culture collection, I realized I had finally found the answer to the question I had been asking myself for years: Exactly what is the unknown “blob” in the lava-lamp? What is the secret of the lava that creates its own shapes and forms, each of them different from the next? As the answer became clear to me, I cannot lie and say I wasn’t a tad disappointed. All these years…

 As I search for more answers about individuals finding their birth parent(s), I stumble upon many different instances of a broad idea. Of course, discovering that you have a different biological father late in life is by no means normal, but as I reach out to others with similar stories, I’m discovering all sorts of faces to this conversation. Like all accounts, I find that mine does have a slightly different detail however; one common thread running throughout: discovering an unknown yet intimate secret. 

Some are stories from the child. Some are stories from the parent’ point-of-view. Some stories even talk about the “other parent,” the “first parent”–the men who discover, along with the child, the DNA secret kept hidden for years. As mentioned before, anger is the underlying emotion that is initially felt by individuals who make a discovery like this one, whatever side they are coming from. To quote New York Times Magazine author Ruth Padawer, “These situations are so messy that it seems the best-case scenario would be resolving these cases for every party involved… in a way that keeps the seething resentment to a dull roar.”

Finding out such an enormous secret opens up a wound that I have yet to understand; I’m hoping this research and desire to delve into the unknown proves therapeutic for me. The detail that sets my story apart–as mentioned in my previous post–is the one detail I wish to shed light on. When both the child and the parent are unknown to one another, how do you tackle this feat? I’m two years in and still don’t have the answer. I was lucky to stumble upon a story much like my own, save only the fact that the father I discovered is alive. Going only by Shallyn, a woman who discovered the truth about her biological father while pregnant, she describes her ongoing search for answers as “a shadow.”

And can you believe it? Wax. Wax is the secret of the lava-lamp. Simple and unmistakable, colored candle wax is the tubular substance that is the lava of the lamp. Upon my discovery, I told others who, like me, were disappointed in the answer. Like me, they questioned whether or not the discovery of such a fact rendered the mystery of the lava-lamp any less enigmatic. Those who had not already shattered their own were happy to finally know, while others simply refuted my finding and dismissed it. But there are many ways to treat a secret.  Like so many others, I was faced with a dilemma. I could have left the mess to harden… with  time, I could have picked off these hardened pieces that had already taken shape from the carpet. I could have made the issue about my kitten, the perpetrator of the spill. But instead, I let my instincts take over, and I did what most people would do. I picked it up. I attempted to erase all the evidence of a broken lamp and its contents from off my bedroom floor. It wasn’t until after I took a step back that I felt the consistency of “lava” between my fingers. If I had wanted to, I realized, I could take all the excess wax left behind…and make something new from it.

Although the majority of the lava-lamp and it’s contents are cleaned up, the residue is left behind. The “shadow” if you will…how did I get to this place where I am now? Dismantled and shattered, my life has taken on a new form. I fear that I may not be able to accept the change and at times wonder if knowing the secret helps soothe the reality. Had I awoken in the hospital that night to never discover the truth in question, who would I be today?


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