Abigail Brady had just finished cleaning up a small flood in her basement storage area after her family’s water heater broke a few weeks ago when she suddenly heard her 2-year-old son, Theo, calling her from the bottom of the stairs.
“Help! Sel-eton!” she said her son kept calling out. “Sel-eton!”
Brady, who lives in Herriman, Utah, rushed to see what the commotion was about and burst out laughing, she said. Theo was trying to drag one of their Halloween decorations – a life-size skeleton – up the stairs.
“The Halloween decorations had been in a corner by the water heater, so I’d pulled them away from the mess,” she said. “While everything was drying out, Theo found the skeleton. It was an instant hit.”
Brady, 27, had bought the 5-foot-tall plastic decoration for $;20 two years earlier at her neighborhood grocery store, thinking it would be a fun Halloween addition for her front porch, she said.
“When we put it out last year, Theo hardly noticed because he was only 1,” said Brady, a homemaker.
Brady soon realized that autumn of 2020 would be different. Skeletons didn’t belong in the corner, her toddler had decided.
After Brady hauled the skeleton upstairs, Theo insisted on taking his bony friend along in the car for an outing to a local reservoir that mid-September day, she said.
“And when we got there, he wouldn’t let me leave him behind in the car,” Brady said. “So I carried him out to the beach, and we propped him up in the sand.”
While other kids and their parents laughed and admired Theo’s new pal, Brady shot a video on her phone, which she posted on TikTok. The next day, she saw that the charming snippet of her son’s play date had racked up several thousand views. (It’s up to more than 2 million.)
Brady thought that might be the end of her son’s ghoulish infatuation, but Theo had other ideas, she said.
He cajoled her and her husband, Casey Brady, into allowing Theo to stay in his room so he could show off his favorite books and toys, including the little yellow construction excavator that used to go with him everywhere.
It was soon obvious that the excavator had some competition, Abigail Brady said.
“I put the skeleton in Theo’s rocking chair, but then I was lying in bed and thought, ‘It’s kind of weird to have a skeleton in my child’s room late at night,’ ” she said. “So I went in and sneaked it out.”
When her son figured out that his new friend was missing, the cries came again: “Sel-eton! Sel-eton!”
“After that,” Brady said, “I realized it was a losing battle.”
She and her husband concluded that a skeleton comfort toy was as good as any.
“I really can’t say this is anything different for [Theo],” said Casey Brady, 30, who owns a roofing company. “It’s just a normal day for him. He’s the cutest kid – I love being his dad and seeing his imagination grow.”
Abigail Brady decided that if the skeleton was going to tag along with Theo, it needed a name. She asked for ideas on her Instagram page and settled on Benny, for the skeleton in the Disney series “Halloweentown.”
Benny now accompanies her family everywhere, she said, from the grocery store to the playground and the local swimming pool. “We’ve even taken him to a wedding,” she said.
At home, Theo has breakfast with Benny every morning, then cuddles next to him to watch his favorite TV shows.
“Sometimes he’ll also join us for dinner,” Brady said. “He’s a picky eater and doesn’t eat much.”
She is delighted, she said, that people on social media find it as hilarious as she does when they come across the photos and videos of her son’s comfort creature.
“The year 2020 has thrown us a hardball, so it makes me happy to know people are finding something positive to connect with,” Brady said. She plans to continue posting photos of Theo and Benny’s outings, she said, with her sights set on one day in particular: Halloween.
“We’re planning to have a small family party with my parents and sister, and we’ll all dress up,” she said.
As for Theo’s costume this year, only one thing will do, she said.
“He definitely wants to be a skeleton.”
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