By dumping chili all over the boy, intentionally or not, Minnijean opens a door for the segregationists to try to push them all out. One early evening, Melba and Mother Lois prepare to attend a Christmas party held by the National Organization of Delta Sigma Theta in honor of the Little Rock Nine. She has a delightful time and also enjoys Christmas Eve with her family. Vince calls to say that he will stop by Melba’s house on Christmas. It excites Melba to share such a special day with Vince. However, her fantasy is better than the reality. She realizes that she and Vince have little in common.
Christmas gives Melba a break from the pressures of attending Central, though her status there becomes precarious after the incident involving Minnijean. Spending time with Vince no longer offers the comfort it once did due to Melba’s extraordinary concerns and the inordinate amount of attention that she gets. It is also possible that, after getting to know Vince, he has proven to be less interesting than Melba first thought he was.
Melba’s father, Howell, whom she calls “Papa Will,” also comes over for the holiday. When he and Mother Lois look at each other fondly, it gives Melba hope that they may get back together, though rumors around church say that her father has a girlfriend. Melba accepts that her father is not coming home to stay.
Melba, like the children of many divorced parents, misses her father and wants her family to be a cohesive unit again. She may also miss Howell’s protection and the necessary support of both her parents.
Melba decides not to talk about Central at Christmas, despite her family’s overwhelming interest. She wants life to be normal again. However, the Associated Press includes the story of the Little Rock Nine among the year’s top stories. By New Year’s Eve, Melba is thinking a lot less about Central. Vince invites her to a party, but Mother Lois and Grandma India still refuse to allow her out of the house. Melba makes a list of New Year’s resolutions, which include praying for the “strength not to fight back,” maintaining the best attitude she can at school, and being a better friend to Minnijean to help her remain in school.
While Melba struggles to retain some feelings of normalcy, her family inadvertently spoils it for her by talking constantly about what happens at Central and by refusing to let her go out. Melba’s New Year’s resolutions reflect her unusual selflessness, especially for a teenager. Her main concern is that the Little Rock Nine help each other to remain strong against their enemies so that they can all remain at Central.