For Jamal Hinton and Wanda Dench, it’s no surprise that they continue to celebrate Thanksgiving with each other.
“Jamal is so awesome,” Dench told AZFamily this week.
The two found themselves in an unorthodox friendship after Dench mistakenly invited Hinton to her family’s Thanksgiving feast in 2016, thinking that she had been texting her grandson, who had recently changed his number, she told AZCentral.
Hinton, then 17 years old, shared a screenshot of the conversation on Twitter, where it amassed over 36,000 retweets and nearly 100,000 likes.
At first, Hinton expressed confusion about the invite from a stranger — and asked whether Dench could send over a selfie.
She did, and Hinton sent over a picture of himself, and the mistake became clear. But the invite to her home in Mesa, Arizona, was not rescinded.
“Can I still get a plate tho?” Hinton asked.
“Of course you can,” Dench responded. “That’s what grandma’s do... feed everyone.”
Hinton was entrusted with bringing pumpkin pie, Dench told AZCentral, but he wasn’t the only one hoping for an invite. Because Dench’s number was included in the screenshot Hinton put on Twitter, around 600 people reached out to the Arizona grandma.
“At first it was a slow trickle,” Lisa, Wanda’s daughter, told AZCentral. “But then they came rushing in. I scrolled and scrolled and said to my mom: ‘You’ve got a lot of love. We’ve got to make this into something.’”
They met and enjoyed a meal together in 2016 — then had seconds in 2017.
For that second Thanksgiving dinner, Hinton, 18, brought his girlfriend, Mikaela — and the pumpkin pie he forgot to bring the year prior. Dench said she was happy to see the teenager return, according to USA Today.
“For him to continue with the relationship, I’m just really pleasantly surprised,” Dench told USA Today. “We’re more of extended family and, best of all, friends.”
Hinton spent half of Thanksgiving 2017 with his blood family and then the second half with his newfound family, according to CNN. He said his maternal grandmother “is a little bit jealous, but she likes it too, she likes seeing me on TV.”
Still, he added, there was less attention on the dinner in 2017 than the year prior, when his viral tweet captured the nation’s attention.
“It was nice to have dinner, very quiet but not weird quiet or awkward quiet, it was a good quiet. The food was good and we got to talk this time,” Hinton told CNN. “It went great, and my new grandma seemed to love my girlfriend, so that was good.”
And then came this year, when they joined together with members of both of their families. Hinton tweeted out selfies of him and Dench from their last three Thanksgivings.
They’re already thinking about next year, too. Dench told AZFamily that she hopes Hinton can host the dinner at his place. But no matter how it shakes out, the teenager said he’s just grateful for what feels like a new addition to his family.
“Gaining a new grandma,” he told AZFamily. “I thought maybe I’d gain one getting married, but as a friend, it’s great.”