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These are hard times. Right next door and all over the world we’re staring down lost love, lost money, lost lives, lost faith. No wonder we crave the sweetness of home when we’re feeling adrift and alone. The very word “home” has some sweetness to it.

Which got me thinking about a story I heard about two children. This boy and girl got lost in the deep, dark woods. Or, I should say, they were abandoned in the deep, dark woods. Seems their parents had finally had enough. Especially their widowed father’s new wife.

She didn’t catch the joy in their chatter. She resented their laughter. They collected a posy that failed to delight her. They took out the trash but she didn’t notice. They went to the well for a pail of water each but she was scrolling on her mobile.

I’m sure she tried (at first) to tolerate (and even love) her husband’s dead wife’s kids. But we all know the interloper in a blended family doesn’t get the support they need. She probably got down to her last nerve as soon as the new sex got old.

I don’t approve of what happened next, but I understand how it could happen. I understand how hard it is to flex instead of break. Until I was a mother myself, I thought of nothing but my own comfort.

Maybe she hinted around. Maybe she said it outright. Either way, she finally said, “It’s either me or them.”

Maybe the father knew his kids were resilient enough to survive, since he and their mother had raised them right. Maybe he reasoned it was best not to expose them to their stepmom’s cold discontent. He desperately wanted this woman in his life.

You already know this story, don’t you? How he took them out for a walk after supper. How that was unusual because any other night they’d be in their pajamas by then. How the moon was too thin to light the way home. How hard it was to lie to them.

“I’ll be back for you before you know it.”

And then those damn corvids ate every last breadcrumb the girl had thought to drop along the path.

You can imagine how hard this was for the children. How frightened they were. How the brother and sister huddled together against the cold. How they took turns being brave. How they drifted in and out of sleep hoping it was just a bad dream.

In the morning when they came upon the house built of sugar, it was a no-brainer to help themselves to some Storybook architectural features. I totally get it!

They wolfed down shutters, shingles and window boxes and were sad they couldn’t reach the dormers. They had been taught to mind their manners, but they were too hungry on this occasion. They didn’t wait to be invited in for breakfast.

You know the rest. How they really didn’t mean to be vandals. How their bad-Wiccan hostess reacted. How they suffered. And how they were resilient – just as their father had hoped. They grew very calm. They watched and waited for just the right moment. They survived – against all odds – and lived happily ever after.

What you never hear is the true story of what happened to their dad and his wife. That stuff about Hansel and Gretel returning home with the witch’s treasure to find their father welcoming them back and their stepmother mysteriously dead is just a fairytale.

Father and Stepmother, in fact, retired and moved far away, down near Tampa, Florida. Their former-woodcutter dad never set foot in a forest again. Not even a stand of trees. Not even to retrieve an errant golf ball.

They live in a 2 bedroom 2.5 bath townhouse condo in a 55-and-older community with a Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed 18-hole championship golf course. The dad spends his days on the links or at the clubhouse. Once a week he drives the Hyundai Sonata over to Costco for gas and a rotisserie chicken.

His wife is a front-row regular at the chair yoga class that Jessica teaches on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. You’ll also see her lying out by the pool. But mostly she stands at the kitchen sink staring out at the pretty clouds. Occasionally she’ll treat herself to a Gingerbread RXBAR.

She doesn’t keep a lot of sweets around the house.

Photo Credit: Annie Spratt

Author and RealEstateTherapy curator Cynthia Cummins has been devoted to homeowners and homebuyers for three decades and counting. Visit KindredSFhomes.com for more information on San Francisco real estate.