I've been saving the wind chimes for the right moment. Right occasion. Right people. Sunday, that moment came.

Sam, our middle son, is moving down the street from us. His house is less than two blocks away. There goes the less-than-two-block buffer zone that savvy children try to construct between themselves and their parents.

We did not plan on any of our children coming back to Bakersfield. Their unwitting parents raised them to look forward, not back. Not that "Bakersfield" and "coming back" were bad, but "forward" and "somewhere else" sounded more enticing.

"Ours will never return," we've said. "They are bound to big cities and water."

Attraction to water is understandable. Anybody who grows up in the dust of the ancient inland sea may yearn for rivers, lakes and oceans.

Life surprises. Or can. This time it did.

Bakersfield is dry, but it's familiar dry. Familiar easy. Familiar friendly.

Sam has lived with us since August. We were curious about how that would go. He was, too.

It went well. Surprisingly well. His mother would call it fun because suddenly she had a new/old familiar face sitting across the table in addition to Mr. Glum.

Mr. Glum is OK, but Mr. Glum performs better if the spotlight occasionally strays to the right or left of where Mr. Glum is sitting.

His mother thrilled to the idea of family dinners again, especially family dinners with a new and improved family. Family who wants to be there and isn't always eyeing the front door for a clear path out.

Those days were long ago; so long ago that when we talk about the teenage years and try to re-create them for friends, we seem to be describing another set of parents and children.

Was that really us? Was that really them?

What is, is now. This. Three people -- four, including Sam's girlfriend, Lauren -- sitting at the table as if family days were here again.

We knew their living with us would not last. We knew it was an interlude, but you could call everything a transition; some transitions are just longer and more interesting than others.

A place. He was looking for his own place, where he could hang his flat- screen TV, put his bed and stock his fridge with the kind of beverages that might not include grapefruit juice, even if it is Ruby Red.

A month ago, a house came on the market. Quietly. No sign. A Realtor friend saw the listing and called Sam.

It's an old house. Built in 1908, about 16 years after ours. But the next generation gets smarter. At least that's what they say. That's what you hope for.

Meaning, his old house has new plumbing, new electrical, a new foundation and new fixtures. His parents' old house has, well, you know, character underneath its floors and walls.

"Sam is buying a house," his siblings have said over and over. "Right down from you guys."

They could hardly believe it, and his parents couldn't, either.

It's easy to jump ahead. Maybe a marriage. Children. Heck, I'm already going to soccer games again, and they haven't moved in yet.

Sunday they shopped for appliances. Sunday was champagne celebrating all the good things in our lives, this being one of them.

Sunday, I gave them a box of Woodstock wind chimes. Woodstock sounds like the kind of place that can make wind chimes. The gift comes with installation, something Sam and I can do together.

Wind chimes. Placement is important, but tricky. We can only guess which way the wind will blow.

These are Herb Benham's opinions and not necessarily those of The Californian. Email him at hbenham@bakersfield.com.