In 2016, Wanda Dench texted the wrong number while inviting her grandson over for Thanksgiving dinner.
But Dench, now 62, said her invitation stood. She lived 25 minutes away in Arizona. Hinton accepted.
Four years later, they’re still celebrating the holiday together. And having barbecues. And going on dinner dates to Benihana.
“She’s a great cook and she’s a great person to just hang out with,” Hinton told Time as the latest get-together approached. His favorite dishes from Dench’s kitchen: her turkey and green bean casserole.
Dench and Hinton’s accidental friendship charmed the Internet back in 2016 — and every November since, as they snap a new Thanksgiving selfie. Pictures spanning four years sit pinned atop Hinton’s Twitter timeline.
As promised! Here’s our 2019 update 🦃 @mikaela_autumn pic.twitter.com/hHGZUXYzr3— Jamal Hinton (@kingjamal08) November 29, 2019
It all started with the errant text that Dench said she was initially embarrassed about. Her grandchildren thought it was “a hoot” and still tease her, she told The Washington Post in 2017.
Hinton said he was joking when — after confirming the unknown number was not, in fact, his grandma’s — he texted, “Can I still get a plate tho?”
“Of course you can,” Dench said. “That’s what [grandmas] do … feed every one.”
So, on Nov. 24, Hinton made the short drive to Mesa, Ariz., where he met not only Dench but also her husband and her family, including her grandson.
“She was very sweet and open,” Hinton told The Post two years ago. “I thought, ‘I can’t really not accept an offer like that.’ ”
In a video of last year’s Thanksgiving meetup that Hinton posted online, Dench traced her attitude to her military family upbringing. She was always moving around and meeting new people, she said.
“Family is more than blood,” Dench added. “It’s the people you want to be with.”
The circle of people keeps expanding. Now, Hinton brings his girlfriend, Mikaela, to dinner. This year’s get-together brought Dench to the house of Mikaela’s aunt, he told “Good Morning America.” Also coming along was the Monopoly set that Hinton says he got from Dench as a gift.
“We don’t watch TV or anything. We just sit at the table for a couple of hours and talk the whole time and tell stories and see how we’ve been,” he told Time. “Time kind of just flies, we don’t even realize how long we’ve been there. They’re really good company.”
Dench tweeted Thursday that she “had a blast” at this year’s celebration, captured partially on video.
Relatives mingle on camera as Hinton flips through a scrapbook from Dench — then part with hugs and an offer to meet up again for Sunday dinner.
Had a blast with Jamal & family pic.twitter.com/IMmAOSSkg0— Wanda D (@wandadench) November 29, 2019
Hinton said he wants to play the host someday but that the logistics were tough this year as he and Mikaela move into a new apartment.
“Next year,” he said.
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