To drive through the suburbs of Northern Virginia is to marvel still at the widespread wealth, the mansions and mini-mansions that did not exist a quarter-century ago and that now thicken the woods and hills. It used to be sleepy here; it used to be horse farms. I remember looking at one of the new houses 22 years ago. As I explored the heavy, sprawling concrete basement, the agent said, "We think this would take a 40-megaton bomb." She meant it as a serious selling point. We were near Langley.
The other night, the big houses were strung with glittering white Christmas lights--not all different colors, as we do in other suburbs, but stately white--and from the Georgetown Pike, heading toward Great Falls, we saw a house with a big glass-walled living room that faced the street, and below it a glass-walled entrance room, and each had its own brightly decorated tree. "Two Christmas trees," murmured a companion, and it captured the air of prosperity and solid well-being of the area.