StoryCorps: Best Friends Make Room For Laughter And Tears Jamie Olivieri and Yennie Neal-Achigbu have been inseparable since eighth grade. From annual Christmas gatherings to a husband's death, the friends have helped each other through the good and the bad.

Through Thick And Thin, Best Friends Make Room For Laughter And Tears

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And it is time for StoryCorps. Jamie Olivieri and Yennie Neal-Achigbu met in grade school in Yonkers, N.Y. Nearly 30 years later, they are still best friends. As 2020 comes to a close, they had a conversation using StoryCorps Connect to reflect on their relationship and how they find joy even in the most challenging times.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

YENNIE NEAL-ACHIGBU: I remember in ninth grade, I was on the soccer team and, halfway through the season, getting kicked in the knee and not being able to walk.

JAMIE OLIVIERI: I just remember carrying you across campus on my back.

NEAL-ACHIGBU: And I was wondering, how the heck is she carrying me?

OLIVIERI: You were my person.

NEAL-ACHIGBU: Yeah. We always looked out for each other that way, and it's still that way.

When I was pregnant with my first, we would go for crepes at 2 a.m.

OLIVIERI: You would text, I have a craving for crepes, and then I'd be at your door in my pajamas - fully adult but still sneaking out.

NEAL-ACHIGBU: Goodness, Alex was a very understanding husband to put up with our foolishness.

OLIVIERI: Yeah - poor guy.

NEAL-ACHIGBU: And there were a lot of moments like that.

OLIVIERI: But also tough moments.

NEAL-ACHIGBU: The year that Alex died, my youngest was just four months. And I couldn't be at home just looking at him, knowing he would be growing up without knowing his father. And so it just worked out that the school was five minutes from your house. So I remember being able to drop the big ones off. And you'd have the door unlocked, and I'd bring him on in in his little car seat. And the two of us would crawl into the bed with you, and just - you were just there.

OLIVIERI: It's one of those moments that, like, you know that life will never be the same. There's a huge well of grief there, but you've got to show up.

NEAL-ACHIGBU: Do you remember the first time we had our Christmas sleepover with the kids?

OLIVIERI: Yeah. I wanted to give the kids something outside of the hurt, and it became a tradition. I remember picking out coordinating pajamas.

NEAL-ACHIGBU: It was the year that Zuri cut his own hair. I remember him being in those pajamas, smiling really big. And I'm looking at his hair...

OLIVIERI: Yes.

NEAL-ACHIGBU: ...Like, Lord, help us.

OLIVIERI: You know, as difficult as this year has been, I think when you have little people that are still laughing and still having fun, it's a reminder that, like, it's still worth celebrating. And the kids taught me that you have to hold space for both things.

NEAL-ACHIGBU: We're grateful to have you.

OLIVIERI: I'm grateful to have you.

GREENE: That was Jamie Olivieri and Yennie Neal-Achigbu. They are spending this holiday season together with Yennie's three children. Their conversation will be archived at the Library of Congress.

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