“Thanksgiving Grandma” Spends 6th Year With the Guy She Mistakenly Invited to Dinner

There are some holiday traditions that you can always count on. One of those is that 21-year-old Jamal Hinton and 64-year-old Wanda Dench will break bread on Thanksgiving. The pair has warmed the hearts of people across the internet for six years running—all after an accidental introduction went viral in 2016 and dubbed Dench as the “Thanksgiving Grandma.”

A lot has happened in the time between when Dench thought she was texting her grandson a Thanksgiving invite—not realizing he changed his number, and reaching Hinton instead—and now. After offering Hinton a plate six years ago, the two have spent the holiday together ever since—including in 2020, when each member of the family got tested for COVID-19 so that they could enjoy Thanksgiving together. That year was particularly meaningful as Dench’s husband Lonnie had died of the virus in April of that year.

Once strangers, Dench and Hinton are now family. For Thanksgiving 2021, they’ve done what they have in previous years and took a selfie to celebrate the occasion. Hinton captioned it simply with “Thanksgiving 2021” on Twitter, and he followed up with a photo of himself, Dench, and his girlfriend Mikaela. In that image, Hinton holds a painted portrait from a previous Thanksgiving in which Lonnie was still alive. This painting, however, features a halo above Lonnie’s head indicating that he’s gone but not forgotten.

The heartwarming affair is not only a feel-good tale of viral internet stories, but it has had a positive impact on both Dench and Hinton’s lives in ways they didn’t anticipate. “I would have missed out on a wonderful relationship,” Dench says, reflecting on what would’ve happened if she didn’t invite Hinton for Thanksgiving many years ago. “I've changed my view so much on the younger generation, and now that I've reflected back on all these years, I didn't change their life; they changed mine.”

In keeping with the “Thanksgiving Grandma” tradition, Jamal Hinton and Wanda Dench spent the holiday together for the sixth year in a row.

During their meal, they remembered Lonnie, Dench's husband who passed away in 2020 due to complications with COVID-19.

h/t: [Reddit]

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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