When I was six years old, my mother gave me a little monster-shaped bar of soap. I can't picture its face, but I know exactly what the box named as its scent: lily of the valley. I'd never heard of this flower -- and at the time, I probably didn't realize it was an actual flower. But I loved the smell. I carried the soap and pressed it to my nose habitually.
Years later, I picked up a bottle of perfume and breathed in at the spray nozzle -- and I was shocked to again feel the ridges of that soap in my hand, to smell the scent of our little house on Walnut Street, to feel that the world outside was all a green summer and I was a small person who could roam freely in it.
I bought that perfume.
Today, I know that lily of the valley is a fairly common perfume note. I've smelled it in the romantic classic Diorissimo, Guerlain's sparkling Muguet, Yosh's Sottile, the Jessica McClintock that I had in college, and so many others. And now I have it in Dame Perfumery's Soliflore Lily of the Valley.
I love this one because it's realistic. It's less of an artist's interpretation of the flower and more of a literal capture. Jeffrey Dame is a photographer here rather than a painter, but even a photographer makes artistic choices about things like lighting and composition when capturing reality. Soliflore Lily of the Valley conveys all of the childlike innocence of the flower's scent without being childish, and it juxtaposes a dense sweetness with the clarity of spring air. That's why it will always hold a spot on my vanity: It unearths the memory -- grown more powerful over time -- of one of my first fragrant loves.