Melinda doesn’t feel very enthusiastic about Christmas, and this is in large part because of how the Christmas period affects her mother. Melinda’s mother manages a clothing store and so around the Christmas period is “normally harried (and) rushed,” and, from Melinda’s perspective, “turns into a strung-out retail junkie.” For Melinda’s mother, Christmas is stressful because she feels that “If she doesn't sell a billion shirts and twelve million belts on Black Friday, the world will end.” The stress that Melinda’s mother feels at this time is perhaps one reason why Melinda doesn’t seem to enjoy Christmas very much.
When her friend, Heather, gives Melinda a Christmas present (“bell earrings that chime”), Melinda’s response is less than enthusiastic. Her first thought is that “This means I'll have to get her something.” This implies that the exchange of presents at Christmas is for Melinda an obligatory, unsentimental habit, rather than a joyful act of kindness.
Melinda says that “Little kids make Christmas fun. I wonder if we could rent one for the holidays.” The implication is that since she is no longer so little, and since she has no “Little kids” in her house, Christmas is no longer fun. She jokes that she would like to “rent” a child for Christmas, which implies that she is very aware of how relatively boring Christmas will be for her without one.
At first Melinda spends her Christmas vacation playing in the snow, making a Christmas wreath with “branches from the holly bushes and a few sprigs of pine,” and, as her parents say, “loung(ing) around the house.” Melinda also helps her mother at the clothes store, mostly in the basement stockroom, folding shirts. She then helps her father at his place of work, putting calendars into envelopes while he “sits at his desk and talks to buddies on the phone.”