We'd spend the day getting ready 'for company'. We'd put the linen guest towels in the bathroom (which no one would use), we'd sweep the front porch, we'd wipe the fingerprints from the sliding glass doors.
"Oh, we'd love to," my mother would say on the phone, "but we're having company this evening."
She'd hang up and say to me, "Honey, our company is almost here. Have you changed yet?" (Of course not. I was still changing the outfits on my Fashion Plates.)
Company was always older than me. It could have included one of my friends, but to be company, it would have been their parents, too. As soon as I was old enough to have my own company, it was no longer company. Why?
Did we gradually ease into hosting people in a way that our parents' generation did not? We started having people over in our dorm rooms. (After curfew. My mother did not do this.) Then in the tiny living rooms of our early apartments. (Before the neighbours asked us to keep it down. My mother did not do this, either.) Then in the bigger living rooms of our later apartments. (With more decorum at this point, thank goodness.) Finally, around the age of 30, we started entertaining in a style that resembled our parents. (Only our Waterford wine glasses are the size of their Waterford water goblets.)
It may have also been part of an overall societal desire to keep things vague, something we've completely lost. "We're having company for dinner" tells the listener nothing. Is the company your new best friend, your trans-gender astrologist, your estranged cousin, or your brother-in-law who just arrived from surfing in Barbados? We live in a world of too much information. We're going to tell you everything about our friends who are coming over for dinner, including that hiccup they had back in 2008.
I'm going to find a way to bring back 'company'. Maybe not when mentioning dinner guests to a good friend, but definitely instead of saying that we're having 'friends over' to someone who really doesn't need more than 'company'. I might be surprised to find that's more people than I think. And for this, I'll definitely need some linen guest towels.