Helping a parent to move to a senior living community can be a challenging experience that can include navigating your own thoughts and feelings, helping your parent express and process their feelings and also helping your children to understand. The second children’s book we are celebrating in honor of Read Across America week is a great book for adults and children alike that are going through this transition.
Oma’s Quilt, written by Paulette Bourgeois and illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch tells the story of Oma leaving her home on Maple Street where she has lived for most of life and moving to Forest View Retirement Home – a lovely community with beautiful grounds “and they even go bowling every Wednesday”. The main characters in the story are three generations of women in a family – Oma, her daughter and her granddaughter Emily.
From the perspective of someone who has experienced hundreds of older adults making this move, this story is very realistic – from the anxiety of the adult child to the grief and trepidation of Oma to sunny and optimistic Emily trying to cheer everyone up. Emily, like my children, thinks retirement communities are fantastic!
When Oma arrives at Forest View she doesn’t like it. The room feels too small, she’s always cold and she hasn’t been able to connect with the other residents ye. In fact she she calls them “nincompoops” (a part of the story that sent my children into peals of laughter just like Emily). The first day is the hardest and as they head back to the car Emily tells her mother exactly what she (and all adult children who go through this move) doesn’t want to hear “I don’t think Oma likes it here…I think she misses Maple Street”.
While sorting through boxes of Oma’s belongings Emily has an idea. What if they make a quilt for Oma made out of fabric from important memories on Maple Street. Maybe that will help Oma feel more at home – and warmer too!
Of course Oma, like new residents at Caledonia Senior Living, eventually does settle in to her new home. It is a big change and it takes time. Emily’s brilliant idea to create a quilt ends up not only helping Oma to feel at home but also helps Emily and her mother feel better about the decision the family has made. Treasured memories are passed on to Emily as mother and daughter work on the quilt.
It seems like the author must have experienced a transition like this in her family because this story feels both so personal and so authentic.
Oma’s Quilt is available for loan at the Scottish Home for anyone on this journey. The National Film Board of Canada made a beautiful animated short that expands on the story slightly but enriches it. The scene with Oma and her packed bags is I think every adult child’s worry on that first day. It can be streamed for free here.