"I'm scared," Katherine announced from the backseat.
"I know you are, honey, but this year isn't going to be like last year. You already know everyone. You already have friends."
"I know. I'm just scared."
"Why? Do you think the teacher's going to smack your hands with a ruler?"
"Mom! No, of course not."
"Do you think the principal's going to lock you in the dungeon?"
"Mom! The principal doesn't even have a dungeon!"
"She doesn't have a dungeon?" I shook my head. "What kind of school doesn't have a dungeon?"
"Schools don't have dungeons, Mom!"
"In that case, why are you scared?"
"I'm scared I'm going to be bored."
"Yeah," she nodded, "like, bored to death."
"Bored to death? You're right, that would be awful! Can you imagine?" I glanced at her in the rearview mirror. "I'll come to pick you up after school and the teacher will say, 'Mrs. Sovich, I have some terrible news.' I'll gasp, of course, and cry, 'Oh no, what is it?' Then she'll look me right in the eye and say, 'I'm sorry to tell you, your daughter was bored to death during class today.' Then I'll start to cry."
"Mom! I didn't mean, like, actually bored to death. I just meant, what if my classes are boring?"
"What if they aren't boring though? What's the best possible thing that could happen?"
Katherine grinned. "The best possible thing that could happen would be if the teacher hands everyone a new pair of pajamas as they walk through the door. She'll say, 'Class, may I have your attention? I need everyone to change into these pajamas because we're going to watch a movie. In fact, we're going to forget all about that Important Stuff and spend this whole year watching movies.' Then she'll pass out bags of candy. Oh! And she might say, 'I also want you to know that I just got a new job as a candy tester and you're all going to help me. While we're watching movies you'll be expected to eat lots and lots of candy so you can tell me which kinds you like best.'"
"That sounds awesome," I exclaimed. "I hope that's exactly what happens! Of course, if it does happen that way, the teacher's probably going to want you to keep it a secret. You'll come home and say, 'Oh Mom, school was so hard. We spent all day doing math and reading.' You'll want me to feel sorry for you, but I'll know you were really just eating candy and watching movies in your pajamas the whole time."
I pulled the car to a stop at a red light. "Penelope, you're being very quiet back there." I craned my neck to look toward her. "What do you think your teacher's going to say?"
"Oh, Penny!" Katherine laughed. "What if you walk in and find out they've hired a new assistant and a new teacher for your class? The assistant might be a boy named Mr. Garten and the teacher might be a girl named Mrs. Kinder. That way they'll be Mrs. Kinder and Mr. Garten! Kindergarten, get it? Kinder-garten!"
"That's very silly of you, Katherine," Penelope said, folding her hands in her lap and shaking her head, "but that's not going to happen. When I get to school the teacher's going to say, 'It's time to make artwork!'" A hint of pink spread across her cheeks and she hunched her back and grinned. "I'm really excited to make artwork this year. It's going to be spectacular!"
"Exactly," I agreed. "It's going to be a spectacular year!"