Updated 11/17/2014, 9:25 a.m.
Nearly 20 years ago, a group of six kids gathered around a table in their hometown of Los Angeles and smiled for a picture:
On a whim seven years later, the kids -- teenagers at this point -- jokingly posed for the same photo before some parted ways for college:
Earlier this month, nearly 13 years after the second photo, the group of friends sat down for a third take, recreating the scene in honor of one their members' 29th birthday:
Finding it humorous, birthday boy Kevin Opos (second from the right), posted the photo series on Reddit with the caption "Best Buddies at 10, 17 and 29 years old." The post immediately went viral, not only because of the amusing photos themselves, but also out of respect for the impressive duration of their friendship.
"Good for you guys for sticking together," wrote one Redditor, admiringly. "It's hard to keep groups of friends together. As people grow up they usually grow apart."
So what's their secret? A little bit of effort, a dash of humor and a genuine commitment to each other, the group told The Huffington Post. In a heartwarming interview, we asked the amigos what their friendship was all about, and what it has been like growing old together. Before we get to the interview itself, here are the group members in the above photo:
Far left: Matt Gruber
Second left: Joel Atia
Middle: Mykil Bachoian
Second right: Kevin Opos
Far right: Ben Danon
Front: Aviv Edelstein
HuffPost: What does this group of friends mean to you?
Kevin: These guys have always felt like brothers to me. It's the type of relationship where you could be your complete self, flaws and all, and I would never be concerned that I would lose any one of them. I've known them for so long that I really feel like they are each a piece of my personality, as if I have something so deeply in common which each one of them that when we come together there is a sense of completion.
Aviv: This group of friends is a connection to my past. We've been with each other through all of life's trials and tribulations -- elementary school, summer camp, Bar Mitzvahs, driver's licenses, high school graduations, college, family deaths, weddings and now babies are coming. Plus much more. We remember things about each other that the others have probably forgot, or wish to forget. It's humbling to have friends who can remind you of something embarrassing from your past when you are trying to act all tough. Although I don't think any of us take ourselves too seriously.
Joel: This isn't just a group of friends to me, they're my family. We'll always be there for each other no matter the time and distance that separates us. There's that old saying "Blood is thicker than water", but is it thicker than 20 years of friendship and memories? No, they're exactly the same. Kev, Mykil, Aviv, Matt and Ben aren't my friends, they're my brothers.
HuffPost: To what do you attribute the longevity of your relationship?
Ben: If it wasn't for Kevin I'm sure we would have strayed further apart. He's really been the glue to this friendship, and he's made staying in contact with all of us a priority. We see each other every year or so these days and its usually for his birthday. We all enjoy each other's company and even as our lives have gotten busier as adults, Kevin has made it a point that we stay in contact.
Mykil: I think the longevity of our friendship stems from the fact that we grew up together and have seen each other's growth and progress at every stage in life from about age 8. We are all from the same community and have common interests and backgrounds that overlap with one another. This makes it much easier to relate to each person's individual experiences, because certain things do not need to be explained to one another since we all have a shared understanding of the history that brought each person to any given point in life.
Matt: We hung out as kids and surprisingly at Kevin's birthday, we'd reminisce on old times. Don't get me wrong all of us keep in touch in some form or another, but Kevin Opos definitely is our glue. I remember spending the night at Kevin's house and all of us on his floor with no room to walk. Now as I get older, I have a wife, a house and a daughter so I'm super busy. I look at my daughter and it just reminds me of what it was to be a kid with no worries and playing with your best buds. With also another daughter on the way and my brother having a daughter within two weeks of mine, I can only hope they all have as great of a friendship as I did with my buddies.
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