While cranking out the annual Heck family Christmas newsletter, Frankie brings everyone up to speed on Mike’s promotion at the quarry, her new job selling cars, Axl’s new job bussing tables and Sue’s pseudo-boyfriend, Brad. As for Brick, he’s bummed about the fleeting notion of Christmas. The boy’s deep.
When the director of the Christmas choir announces that Melanie Howard has throat polyps, Frankie is ecstatic. It’s not that she wishes abnormal mucus membrane growths upon anyone; it’s just that Melanie has hogged all of the solos for the past 15 years. But now Frankie has a shot at taking center stage at midnight mass. If only she didn’t have to deal with the hassles of the holidays.
Mike says he’ll handle things this year. He’ll just make a list. Frankie is a little put-off by how nonchalant he is about taking on Christmas. It’s hard work. But Mike seems to be up to the challenge. He goes shopping at the mall, puts up the tree and makes a snowman out on the lawn. Frankie is upset that he’s doing all the fun stuff without her. So she insists on being the one to take Brick to see Santa.
Brick’s holiday blues even bring down Santa. Frankie gives Mike one more thing for his “to do” list: Fix Brick. That won’t be easy. The little guy’s depression stems from a Santa Pez dispenser he got a few years back. It was great for awhile, but then it was gone. When Brick questions his own mortality, Mike says, “That’s why we have books and candy and water parks and TV. It’s all just a big old distraction from death.” Makes sense.
Brick takes the news in stride, but then Mike adds a tidbit that totally traumatizes his young son. He says that if Brick doesn’t stop whispering to himself, Santa won’t bring him any presents. So now he isn’t talking at all. Frankie is upset because Mike rushed through the Brick situation just so he could check it off his list. Mike takes offense and almost admits Christmas is hard. We said almost.
With Melanie Howard still on the disabled list, Frankie scores the solo gig at midnight mass. She wants the family to get to the church at 11 so the “I only go at Christmas and Easter crowd” doesn’t snag all the good seats. What happens next reminds us of a classic holiday poem. ‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Heck house not a creature was stirring because Mike and the kids fell asleep on the couch.
A disappointed Frankie launches into song as her family shows up late and in pajamas. Everyone screams at each other on the car ride home until Brick shouts, “Everybody stop yelling!” Unfortunately, he also whispers the word “yelling.” Brick freaks out because now Santa won’t be bringing him any presents.
The bickering continues until Mike hits an ice patch and the car goes into a spin. Once Mike regains control of the car, the family resumes yelling. Then he hits another ice patch. He regains control once more, but this time it looks like the screaming is over. Everyone is way too freaked out.
Mike finally admits that Christmas is hard. That’s all Frankie ever wanted to hear. Brick finds his missing Santa Pez dispenser. It slid out from under the seat the second time they almost died. It’s a Christmas miracle! Frankie says via voiceover, “So almost dying twice had made the rest of us start thinking about our own existence. But for Brick, it made him stop.” That plastic Santa must be popping out some pretty tasty two-year-old Pez pellets.
As Christmas morning rolls around, Brick is happy but Sue is not. She went out to give her overly-effeminate boyfriend Brad his present and caught him hiding in the bushes with a boy. You can just guess what they were doing. That’s right. They were smoking. So that’s why Brad would never kiss Sue under the mistletoe! He didn’t want her to know he was a smoker. At least, that’s what Sue believes. Yes, it’s another Christmas miracle.