In 1990 or 1991, when we were living in Louisiana, my husband lost his job. I was a grad school, and we were broke. I asked the kids still at home whether they would like to spend $20 on a Christmas tree, or use the money for a few more presents. They wanted both, of course.
I got clever. I bought a roll of transparent fishing line, and a box of push pins. We had a blank beige wall in one corner of the family room, so I hung my Christmas ornaments against that background, basically in the shape of a tree, or where a tree would be, if one were actually there. The ornaments were all of different heights, as though they hung on that imaginary tree. I called it the air tree, of course.
It was totally cool. Against that background, the ornaments appeared to be hangng in mid-air. The effect was truly stunning, and cost me about 5 dollars. As an added touch of whimsy, I put the tree stand - filled with water, of course - underneath the air tree.
The neighbors enjoyed the tree as much as we did. In fact, I think it was Denise Grayson who dubbed it "The Famous Air Tree." She even brought my tree some lightweight ornaments.
A few years later, when times were more plush, I suggested to the kids that we could afford a real tree again. Oh, the howls of protest! I continued the air tree for quite a few years. Time eventually takes its toll. I'm not wild about getting on a ladder to arrange my ornaments, so I downsized to a little artificial tree. It's fine, but we all remember the magic of the air tree, and the "can do" spirit that triumphed when it came about because of desperation.