Recently, presidential candidate Mitt Romney quipped that his wife, Ann, was born at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. While the media ignored that quaint little factoid, focusing instead on Mitt’s next remark, the one where he said that no one had ever asked him for his birth certificate, the details of Ann’s birth actually caught my attention.
That’s because I was born at Henry Ford Hospital, too. And it occurred to me that not only was Ann Romney born in the same hospital as I was, we have other things in common, too: We are both the mother of sons, we both like to ride horses, we both color our brown hair blonde, and we both have Welsh ancestry.
What else, I wondered, did little ol’ me, an a-political mom, wife, and writer in the Midwest, have in common with a woman who could become our next first lady?
I decided to do a little research and find out.
After Ann was born, she grew up with her family in Bloomfield Hills, one of the five wealthiest cities in the United States. After I was born, I spent three months in foster care in Detroit before I was adopted by my parents, who lived in Battle Creek. Where Purina manufactured their dog food and a quarter of families lived below the poverty line.
Ann did well in school and so did I. She at the private Kingswood School, a National Historic Landmark with forty acres of formal gardens attracting tourists from around the world, and me at seven different public schools scattered around the Midwest. My family moved around a lot while I was growing up.
But no matter, because at least Ann and I both went to college!
She attended Brigham Young, a private religious university where students follow an honor code forbidding them to consume alcohol. I attended Michigan State University where I received high marks in journalism and helped haul trash cans full of sand into the basement of the TKE House for a January blizzard beach party. A six-kegger.
After college Ann became a housewife, marrying Mitt in a ceremony at her parents’ Bloomfield Hills home, then hosting a reception at the Bloomfield Hills Country Club. Among her guests was our future President, Gerald Ford. President Richard Nixon sent hearty congratulations to the newlyweds. After college, I worked as a reporter for an un-unionized daily newspaper, earning $180 a week, then married my long-time boyfriend in an outdoor ceremony. Among the guests at our wedding was Big Joe, an amateur bartender who treated guests to his signature cocktail, the “Mountain Dew Me.” My dog, a shaggy mutt from the humane society, congratulated me by jumping on my dress.
Now it’s starting to seem like Ann and I don’t have much in common, after all. But wait, Ann gave birth to five sons and I gave birth to three, plus have two stepsons from my second marriage, so there’s that. She and Mitt recently celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary; my first husband and I divorced three months before our 20th.
As a wife to Mitt, Ann has pursued charitable endeavors, many of these aimed at helping underprivileged children. Ok, so what if my sons were on the reduced school lunch list for a while. Ann can still relate to me in other ways, right? Take, for example, our shared love of horses!
In her free time, Ann enjoys horseback riding and I did too. Although I ride Western, she competes in dressage and earned medals from the U.S. Dressage Federation. And she has a California trainer to help her import new stock from Europe. And one of her horses, Rafalca, not only won a spot on the U.S. dressage team, but even competed in the 2012 Olympics. While I got a second job as a waitress and saved my tips to buy a pole barn kit, fencing and two mixed breed horses. Maybe Ann and I could have gone riding together, except that middle class people like me can’t afford to keep horses anymore. Or get our hair colored regularly, either.
But at least we still have our Welsh ancestry in common, right? Ann is proud of hers and I’m proud of mine, too. According to the New York Daily News, Ann’s grandfather emigrated from Wales to Detroit in 1929 and went to work in the car industry. It was a pretty good decision, too, considering that her family’s personal fortune is now about $250 million.
I contacted the adoption agency and learned that my birthmother’s ancestors also emigrated to Detroit from Wales. But that’s really all I know. At least it explains my freckles and my good attitude in the face of adversity. And by adversity I mean my checkbook: My personal fortune varies month to month, depending upon my balance. Right now it’s $1,847.
For a minute there I thought that comparing myself to Ann was an exercise in futility. That the only thing we really had in common was that we were born in the same Michigan hospital. I don't begrudge her her wealth; far from it. I'd love to have access to that kind of dough. I just think that people who live in the White House should be able to relate to the people who don't And I'm not sure she can.
But then I learned one last thing about her. When she was Massachusetts’ First Lady, the Boston Globe criticized her for being, “largely invisible.”
Geez, Ann, I know exactly how that feels.
I guess there is one more thing we have in common, after all.