My Strange Addiction – Blowing Out Grotto Candles

Author: Chris Frick


Let me just say that I am not a bad guy; in fact, I would consider myself to be a pretty good guy. I think about volunteering sometimes, I eat my vegetables and I regularly follow nine of the ten commandments (I occasionally covet my neighbor’s house). However, I do seem to have one fatal flaw that some may consider to be “irredeemable”: I need to blow out every single candle in the Grotto.

It all started at a young age — the age of ten to be exact. For the first time in my life, my dad took me to his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, in hopes that I would one day give him the opportunity to pay the school $70 thousand per year. Coincidentally, the day we arrived on campus was also my birthday, and it was the greatest day of my life. I saw the Golden Dome, my annoying little sister got run over by an athlete on a scooter and I ate the most delicious meal of my life (a chicken patty and yogurt from SDH). To wrap up the day, we visited the Grotto. I was overwhelmed with childlike wonder at the sight of hundreds of flickering candles in the fading evening light.

“Why did you get so many candles?” I asked my dad, overwhelmed with joy. “I’m only ten, you didn’t have to get so many!”

“What the hell are you talking about?” he responded. He’s such a jokester!

I took off at a full sprint into the Grotto and blew out candle after candle. Some took one blow, some took six; it didn't matter, I had to extinguish all my birthday candles. One lady started crying when I blew out her candle, but I comforted her.

“Don’t cry!” I exclaimed. “You should just ask your dad to buy this many candles for your birthday!”

This made her cry harder — I don’t know why. I still had lots of candles left to blow out, but before I could get to them, my dad dragged me away. He took me over by the lake and started explaining something to me about the Grotto, but I wasn’t really paying attention. All I could think about was my birthday candles. That night, I attempted to run back to the Grotto five more times to blow out the candles, but my dad put sleeping pills in my birthday cake to calm me down.

After that day, all I could think about was the Grotto candles. I went home and started working my butt off in school, quickly becoming a straight-A student. My hard work continued into high school and eventually, I was accepted into Notre Dame.

 Welcome Weekend of my freshman year arrived, as did my 18th birthday. While other short-sighted morons spent the weekend making friends, I went to the Grotto and blew out over 2,500 candles — I knew my dad would have the candles ready for my birthday again! Other people kept trying to pick up my candles and light them for me, which I assumed was some sort of game where I had to quickly blow them out! Sometimes the people would try to fight me, which certainly added to the challenge.

Since then, people have tried to explain to me that the Grotto is not a place for my birthday candles, which seems foolish on their part. If the Grotto is just some place for regular candles, why are the candles always lit up on my birthday? My dad is so generous, too; he bought so many candles that whenever I go to the Grotto, even when it’s not my birthday, there are still leftover candles lit up! I blow those suckers out without hesitation every time.

For some reason, people seem to resent me for this, and I struggle to understand why. Maybe they’re jealous that their dads don’t buy them thousands of candles for their birthdays. Maybe they have other bad stuff going on in their lives that they’re taking out on me; in fact, there’s a surprisingly high number of people who go to the Grotto and have sick relatives or something. I don’t really know why people always feel so compelled to tell me about their sick relatives when I blow out my birthday candle that they’re holding… Maybe they want me to make a birthday wish for them.