The trapeze accident that claims the life of Anna's (the mother's) first husband occurs before the narrator is even born. You would think this is a story her mother might have told her, but this is not the case. The accident made the news in the Boston and New York tabloids and this is where the narrator gets her information. She adds, "Not from my mother, Anna of the Flying Avalons, nor from any of her in-laws, nor certainly from the other half of her particular act, Harold Avalon, her first husband." It is at this point, upon mentioning the newspapers, that she goes into a detailed flashback about the accident.
From the information in these sources, she assumes some things, such as the development of the weather. But she also directly learns of the three acts which preceded the Flying Avalons: the White Arabians of Ali-Khazar, the Mysterious Bernie, and the Lady of Mists. She learns that in the Flying Avalons' act, Anna and Harry would move like birds in a romantic dance, each time ending with a kiss. One thing that was not in the newspapers was that Anna was pregnant at the time. The narrator notes that Anna's stomach muscles were so strong that the pregnancy didn't show. In seeing her mother go blind, the narrator knows that Anna is comfortable in dangerous situations, which is why she was comfortable performing even though she was pregnant.
Lightning strikes the tent pole and it collapses. Instead of grabbing Harry's ankle, Anna swings to the pole and clings to it. The narrator notes that this is to save herself and her unborn child. Three people die in the accident. Anna suffers burns to her hands. She also has her arm broken and is knocked unconscious by a careless rescuer. This is the first time the narrator owes her existence to her mother.