Jamal Hinton and Wanda Dench were introduced in 2016 after Dench sent an accidental text message to the wrong number about her family’s Thanksgiving day plans. Ever since, the two have made a tradition out of it. They’ve spent the last five Thanksgivings together and are planning on meeting for a sixth this year.
They told their sweet story to CNN. Wanda Dench was planning on texting her grandson back in 2016, when she accidentally sent the message to his old phone number. The number now belonged to high school student Jamal Hinton, who was sitting in class at Desert Vista High School in Arizona.
“Thanksgiving Dinner is at my house on Nov. 24 at 3:00 p.m.,” the accidental text read on Jamal’s phone. “Let me know if you’re coming. Hope to see you all. Of course that includes Amanda & Justin.”
Sending photos of each other after realizing the mistake, the two had a good laugh. She didn’t live too far away from Jamal in Mesa, Az., and the teenager asked if he could still come for Thanksgiving anyway.
“You not my grandma,” he wrote back. “Can I still get a plate tho?”
“Of course you can,” Wanda Dench replied. “That’s what grandmas do … feed everyone.”
The two have met for the past five years to keep the tradition going, posting on social media that they’re “all set for year 6!”
In his phone’s contacts as “Grandma Wanda,” she wrote to Jamal Hinton this month and said that “it would bring me great joy if you, Mikaela, and your family would come to my house on Thanksgiving Day to share good food and great conversation.”
Mikaela Autumn, Jamal Hinton’s girlfriend, and his family are all set to attend this year as well. She signed off, “your friend always, Wanda.”
Last year, in April 2020, Wanda’s husband Lonnie Dench passed away from complications due to Covid-19, and she spoke about how lovely it was to still have Jamal over for holiday dinner. They were married for 43 years.
“I wasn’t looking forward to it at first because Lonnie wasn’t going to be there,” Wanda Dench, 64, told CNN last November. “The past seven months have been so difficult, but this was really important to me.”
“I can’t even explain how much joy I had, having good food with my favorite company,” she said of having Jamal Hinton over. “We laughed, we had a great time, we reminisced about the past. It was so good for all of us.”
Dench’s daughter and grandson, the one she originally meant to text about Thanksgiving day plans, were also over for holiday dinner.
“At first it was sad,” said Hinton, 22. “We had a photo of Lonnie at the table with a candle lit, and we were all shaky in the beginning but it lasted five minutes before we were back to ourselves. We just told jokes and stories and shared our memories of Lonnie, so it was amazing.”
“This Thanksgiving, along with all the holidays coming up, aren’t going to be the same as past ones but we will make the best of it,” Jamal Hinton told CNN before their Thanksgiving together last year. “Rest In Peace to Lonnie and everyone else we lost this year we will miss you greatly. Thank you for being in our lives.”
People on social media were inspired by the wholesome, uplifting story of family and friendship, writing about how touched they were that Jamal Hinton was able to keep the tradition alive even after Lonnie’s death.
Posting a photo of the four of them on Twitter, Hinton wrote that he felt “blessed to have such wonderful people in our lives.”