Sunday, May 13, 2012


I post this in honor of my mom and all the other WASP mom's out there, who share certain characteristics, not the least of which is DETERMINATION!
by Nancy Parrish,
(Daughter of WASP Deanie Bishop Parrish)

I’ve been writing and sharing stories online about my mother, the WASP, for  16 years.  It is her fault. She is interesting,  she is inspirational,  and she has set the bar so high, I’m still striving to reach it!   

After my dad passed away in 1993, my mother became my partner.   Together, we created Wings Across America, have traveled to 19 states, and have interviewed over 100 WASP. It is a partnership of common purpose, love,  respect  and faith.     

I share a story--NOT  about the good old days of the 1940‘s.  This is a story I witnessed, but trust me when I say that it is absolutely a ‘WASP story’.  This is about one WASP’ determination, persistence, hard work and faith that,  ‘With God’s help, nothing is impossible’. It is about my mother, the WASP, who did something extraordinary in 1992 that she had never done before--in fact, no WASP had ever done before-- or has since. 

The WASP were planning their 50th reunion,  to be held at the Officer’s Club at Lackland AFB in San Antonio.  As part of the festivities, mom had volunteered to head up the “LUNCHEON ENTERTAINMENT”.

Several weeks before the big event,  mom had one of her ‘lightbulb moments’.  When she gets that sparkle in her eye--something small is going to turn into a much bigger deal.  This was no exception.
“Why don’t you write a song for the luncheon,” she asked me.  “In fact, why don’t you write a ‘RAP’?   Pause. I was processing where in the heck she had ever heard the term ‘RAP’ when she continued.  “A WASP RAP!”   Then, there was mom’s “look”.  It is a special look, known only to WASP and their children. When you experience it, you instantly feel like you are about to disappoint a WASP.  “You’re the songwriter”, she said. (To be fair, I am a song writer and was a member of the musician’s union back in the days of harmony and music that didn’t sound so angry.)  But-- not this--not RAP!)

I made a small mistake.  I spoke before thinking: “Mom, RAP is NOT music.”  I instantly sensed I was about to disappoint her--so I quickly added, “but, if you want a rap song, why don’t you write it yourself?”  Pause.   “I’ll give you the background beat--and you can put words to it.”  I had thrown down the gauntlet.  I had challenged her.  She picked up her pencil.  “How do I do this?”
I got out my little drum machine and laid down a rhythm track.  After I handed it to her and left the room, I heard the tape recorder over and over--play, reverse, play, reverse, over and over as she tried to put words to the beat.  It took hours.  It took many, many hours.  She worked very, very hard.

Dad and I were not completely convinced she could do it, but, from the moment I challenged her, she was absolutely determined that she would do it. NO GOING BACK for her!   Finally, she found the rhyme pattern and a good solid line for the chorus.  A few hours later, the RAP “WE GOT THE STUFF, THE RIGHT STUFF’  was born.
Not only did she write a RAP song, the lyrics told the entire history of the WASP--in RAP, and it does it in just about 4 minutes!  Then, she asked, ‘Will you sing this?’  Never mind my original  ‘rap is not music' argument.  This time, I was NOT going to disappoint my mother,  the WASP.   Yes, I arranged it,  ‘sang’ it, and recorded it!  
Mom contacted WASP Julie Stegge, a former Zigfield Follies dancer. Julie put on her sequined hat and danced to the WASP RAP.  Boy, could Julie kick high! Ask any WASP who attended that convention and she will tell you that it was that single semi- musical moment that was the hit of the entire convention! The rap was "sung", Julie kicked,  and mom smiled.   Talk about your standing ovations--it was awesome!

It has now been TWENTY years, and WASP still talk about the only WASP rap ever written: “We Got the Stuff, the RightStuff.”  When you read the lyrics, you may be surprised by mom’s ‘frank’ lyrics.  “But that’s the way it was,” she says, so that’s the way she wrote it.  However, she admits that she had a little help.  She believes absolutely that, ‘With God’s help,  ANYTHING is possible.’  Yes,  indeed it is! 
Nancy Parrish

Article originally shared with NPR -- 2010