As he fired into life the little nightlight looked up to the two candles standing tall on either side of him. He instinctively knew that they were his parents.
His father – broad, angular, strong. A steady flame, softly illuminating all around him, revealing his calm, proud nature. A gentle giant, thought the young nightlight, immediately admiring him.
His mother – tall, sleek, elegant. Her own flame, more susceptible to the capricious whims of the breeze, casting flickering shadows on the walls, reflecting a more sensitive and excitable character.
The nightlight suddenly felt a strong surge of love for these two fiery guardians and his flame burnt just that little bit brighter for it.
As all children, deep down he also knew that one day he would grow up to be like his parents, but who would he more closely resemble? Would he be big, strong and robust as his father was? With his four right angled shoulders imposing themselves on the glow around. Or would he be tall and slim and unpredictably fiery like his mum? Provoking energetic shadows to dance on the nearby surfaces. Either way he would be happy, he decided. He was proud of them both and he hoped that they were proud of him.
Then in a moment things changed and it was the tear that did it. He had been gazing up at his parents for what seemed like a lifetime (in fact it was his lifetime) when he saw a solitary waxen tear slowly roll down his mother’s side. His mother was sad! But why? Life had seemed so calm and positive until that moment but now a first doubt invaded his existence.
He looked across to his dad for assurance but did not find it. His father seemed to have lost strength between those square shoulders, as if he was starting to fade, no, more like melt, away. It was not a concept that the little nightlight could deal with. The only two beings in his life had suddenly both shown their vulnerability and the young candle’s first fears began to grow.
He looked back to his mum to see her shedding more tears that slid slowly down her body and settled at her foot. She, like his father, seemed to be losing the qualities that he had admired just a short while earlier. He was sure that she was less tall and elegant than when he had first looked up to her.
Slowly but inexorably, the happiness of his newborn existence was overwhelmed by the sombre realities of a candle’s life, and he now knew that his first dream, to be like his parents, would be fulfilled in the most desperate of situations. He would not grow up to be like them. Rather they would grow ever weaker and smaller, maintaining less and less of those admirable attributes that he had seen in them on flaming into life, until they joined him in his lowly insignificance.
Now he knew why his mother wept.