Grandma And Stranger She Accidentally Texted Celebrate Thanksgiving Together For A Fourth Year
In incredibly wholesome news, the best Thanksgiving story of the decade is still going strong, and likely to do so for the foreseeable future.
While 2016 was generally an extremely cursed year, one of the few good things that came out of it was a heartwarming viral text exchange between then 17-year-old Jamal Hinton and kindly grandmother Wanda Dench. In it, Dench invited Hinton, a stranger, to join her family for Thanksgiving dinner.
Celebrating Thanksgiving together has since become an annual tradition for Hinton and Dench, who are now 20 and 62 respectively, and 2019 was no exception.
The unlikely friendship was inadvertently initiated by Dench back in 2016, when she attempted to invite her grandson to Thanksgiving dinner via text. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending upon how you look at it, Dench's message didn't reach its intended recipient. Instead, it landed in the inbox of unrelated high school student Hinton.
"The text said, 'Thanksgiving at my house' and it was from a grandma, but I was like, 'When did my grandma learn to text!?'" said Hinton in a 2016 interview with PEOPLE. "So I asked her for a picture and it definitely was not my grandma."
The grandson Dench was trying to contact had recently changed his number, which was then recycled to Hinton. The teenager sent back a quick selfie of his own to clear up the confusion, joking, "Can I still get a plate tho?"
"Of course you can," responded Dench. "That's what grandma's do ... feed every one [sic]."
Though Hinton's request wasn't serious, Dench's response absolutely was. She also lived in Mesa, Arizona — not an unreasonable journey from Hinton's home in the neighbouring Phoenix.
Hinton did initially feel strange about potentially spending Thanksgiving with a total stranger. However, his apprehensiveness was eased after he met up with the grandmother prior to the event.
"What made me want to go [to Dench's Thanksgiving] was that I went and actually met her and she was pretty nice. So I decided that I'd just go and enjoy the time with her," Hinton told TIME. And history was made.
Though the pair typically celebrate with Dench's family, this year Hinton broke custom to invite Dench and her husband Lonnie to celebrate with his girlfriend Mikaela's family.
"I'm glad I don't have to cook and clean this year," Dench admitted to CBS News.
Even relieved of these duties, Dench still radiated big grandma energy, bringing a pumpkin pie to the gathering and presenting Hinton with a handmade scrapbook recounting their friendship.
Happily, said friendship isn't confined to turkey-based holidays. The duo have developed a good relationship over the years, texting each other and meeting up every two months or so outside the holiday season.
"Unfortunately, our schedules don’t usually line up too well and we live an hour and a half apart, but we have managed to have a couple dinners at her house and restaurants," Hinton told the New York Post.
"The first year I went I never would have thought we'd even stay in touch but once we actually got to know each other I knew we'd be good friends," said Hinton to CBS News. "I don't see any end in sight to be honest."