Frankie says, “Out here in The Middle, fall means a lot of things. Crunchy leaves…hayrides…and most importantly, homecoming.” Since Axl made the varsity football team, Frankie gets to escort him onto the field before the big homecoming game. They haven’t had a lot of mother-son moments lately, so this one will be extra-special. She’ll be able to kiss Axl on the cheek knowing that he won’t wipe it off in front of a crowd.
Frankie spares no expense when she picks up a snazzy new dress for the big event. Actually, there really will be “no expense” since she plans to tuck in the tags and return it the next day. Now, we all know that Axl isn’t the only athlete in the Heck house these days. Sue is on the cross country team. She can’t wait for her folks to come cheer her on at her first track meet which just happens to be the same day as homecoming. Uh oh.
Frankie doesn’t want to miss the homecoming game. Mike suggests they talk to Sue about the dilemma. She’s more than understanding and tells her dad that it’s okay if he doesn’t come to her meet. She’ll be fine if only mom is there. Good plan, lousy execution.
Mike talks to Sue’s coach and gets him to move the cross country race up a half hour so Frankie can swing both events. How’d he do that, you ask? Mike says, “There’s not much you can’t accomplish in this town with a case of beer and a wheel of cheese.” We’re guessing that’s true pretty much anywhere.
Mike decides it’s time for Brick to grow up and start doing some chores. There are lots of leaves in the backyard that need cleaning up. Mike provides Brick with the tools of the trade as well as some valuable guidance. He says, “Rake works better if you flip it around.” Rookie mistake.
As it turns out, Brick doesn’t need the rake at all. That’s because he’s meticulously picking up each individual leaf by hand. After proper inspection, he places each leaf in a garbage bag that corresponds with similar shapes, colors, etc. When Brick finds a leaf that doesn’t look like it came from their tree, he returns it to the neighbor’s yard. The kid is very good at his job.
11 days later, all the leaves are gone and Brick is upset to hear that his flaky friends are headed for the incinerator. So, Mike pops all those lawn bags into the back of the car. He and Brick head out to the woods where they release all the fallen leaves into the wild. Nice.
Sue’s cross country meet is way out in the middle of nowhere. But Frankie is there to cheer on her daughter when the starter pistol pops. She’s also there waiting for Sue long after every other runner has crossed the finish line. Frankie finds her direction-impaired daughter along the trail. She convinces Sue to hop in the car so they can get to the homecoming game. Unfortunately, they get stuck in some major gridlock.
The game is almost over by the time Frankie finally arrives. She completely missed the homecoming festivities. She does, however, see Axl pull in a sparkling fourth quarter interception. He’s headed for the end zone. Then he’s headed for the ground after a bone-crushing tackle. Frankie may have missed her chance to hit the field earlier, but that doesn’t stop her from heading out there now to make sure her baby boy isn’t hurt. It’s gotta be hard crossing a football field in high heels.
Axl is beyond humiliated. He refuses to acknowledge his mom as she rubs his aching shoulder back home. Frankie tries to explain that she just misses the times she could be a mom to him. When she moves to leave, Axl says she can keep rubbing his shoulder if she wants. So, Frankie didn’t get that big, public moment she longed for with her son. That’s okay. This private little mother-son moment is just as special.