The narrator of "The Leap" tells us about her mother who was once in the circus and lived through a terrifying leap from a trapeze. Although her partner has died, the narrator's mom has simply lost her sight due to cataracts. Even with her disfigurement, she is graceful in maneuvering around the home due to her training earlier in life. It is ironic that we learn of this so early on because our narrator tells us that her mother's time in the Flying Avalons is hardly ever thought about because her mother has kept nothing from that time in her life.
Our narrator owes everything to her mother. For example, the narrator finds out from the newspaper that her mother was known in the Flying Avalons as "Anna" and was doing the act with her first husband (Harold Avalon). This was all happening in New Hampshire (a state known for its incredibly changeable weather). As the people attended the circus on that June day, they awaited the beautiful Avalons who would descend looking like beautiful winged creatures. What the audience didn't know was that Anna was seven months pregnant with her first child.
As is the custom of a trapeze act, the finale holds the greatest degree of skill. In this case, the Flying Avalons were supposed to kiss in midair. Thanks to the New Hampshire weather changes, that beautiful June day transformed into a huge electrical storm within moments. Lighting struck the main circus pole right at the moment the two were in midair. Harry falls to his death, but not before Anna rips off her blindfold and grabs his ankle as well as one of the guy wires (which burns her hands so severely, she no longer has lines on her palms). Otherwise unharmed, Anna has her arm broken when is pulled from the wreckage of the circus.
Anna spends a couple of months in the hospital. Meanwhile, her little baby is born dead. Harry had requested to be buried in the family's birthplace; however, Anna has the baby buried in New Hampshire. The narrator remembers visiting that small grave, feeling very close to her stillborn sister as if she were somehow an incomplete version of her own self.
There are other reasons why the narrator is indebted to her mother. As a result of her hospital stay, Anna's doctor becomes her second husband (the narrator's father). He teaches Anna to read; therefore, now that Anna can no longer fly through the air on a trapeze, she can now fly through the air through words. Anna always has a book with her from this moment on. After Anna marries the doctor, they settle on a local farm inherited from Anna's father. Unfortunately, this husband has just passed away as well; therefore, no one remains to read to the blind Anna. The narrator, who now lives in the West, returns to New Hampshire for this reason.
There is also a third example of why the narrator owes everything to her mother. When the narrator was seven, the farmhouse catches fire while someone was over to babysit her. The narrator becomes trapped in an upstairs room. Firefighters try to help, but their extension ladder is broken. Now Anna's former skills come into play, for she climbs an elm tree near the roof, leaps to the rooftop as she breaks off a slender branch, and appears hanging from the gutter by her heels. Anna smiles calmly as she enters the room, holds the narrator, and jumps with the two of them to the safety net.