It's a tradition that started with a mistaken text and it's been kept alive despite time and hardship.
Jamal Hinton and Wanda Dench first met in 2016, when Dench mistakenly texted Hinton while trying to reach her grandson about plans for Thanksgiving. Despite the mistake, Hinton jokingly invited himself over.
"Of course you can," Dench replied. "That's what grandmas do ... feed everyone!"
Hinton stayed true to his promise and showed up with his girlfriend, and Dench welcomed the two with open arms. Screenshots of their text interactions and photos from the meal were shared thousands of times on social media, making Hinton and Dench social media icons.
On Sunday, Hinton tweeted about plans to continue the tradition for the sixth year.
We are all set for year 6! 🦃 pic.twitter.com/wEQioizWGd— Jamal Hinton (@Jamalhinton12) November 14, 2021
Last year was the first year the pair celebrated Thanksgiving without Dench's husband, Lonnie who died of COVID-19 complications in April 2020.
"As some of you may have already found out tonight Lonnie did not make it," Hinton tweeted in April of 2020. "Wanda told me all the love and support he was receiving put a huge smile on his face, so I thank every single one of you guys for that!"
As some of you may have already found out tonight Lonnie did not make it... he passed away Sunday morning😔 but Wanda told me all the love and support he was receiving put a huge smile on his face so I thank every single one of you guys for that!🙏🏽❤️ https://t.co/tNvals0FMh— Jamal Hinton (@Jamalhinton12) April 9, 2020
Wanda and Jamal eventually decided to reunite amid the pandemic holding a small, socially-distanced get-together outside Dench's home last year.
"I can't even explain how much joy I had, having good food with my favorite company," she told CNN. "We laughed, we had a great time, we reminisced about the past. It was so good for all of us."
"At first it was sad. 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," Hinton told CNN. "We just told jokes and stories and shared our memories of Lonnie, so it was amazing."
Despite all the challenges of the past year, Hinton said he was glad he was able to find a way to keep the tradition alive.
"Lonnie was missing this year, and he was a big part of the Thanksgiving story and a big part of our lives, but that's one thing Wanda and I know for sure. Lonnie would have been very angry if we didn't have Thanksgiving together," Hinton told CNN.