What does the narrator mean when she says she owes her mother her existence "three times" in "The Leap"? 

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The narrator means that her mother saved her own life or her daughter’s life three times.

The story describes a trapeze artist’s daughter. She explains the impact her mother had on her life, specifically by saving her life. The narrator feels that her mother is a very unique and interesting...

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The narrator means that her mother saved her own life or her daughter’s life three times.

The story describes a trapeze artist’s daughter. She explains the impact her mother had on her life, specifically by saving her life. The narrator feels that her mother is a very unique and interesting person, and she wishes she knew her better.

The first time her mother saved her life, she actually saved herself. In saving herself, she saved her unborn daughter.  Her mother saved her life by avoiding an accident during a big windstorm.

The first time was when she saved herself. In the town square a replica tent pole, cracked and splintered, now stands cast in concrete. It commemorates the disaster that put our town smack on the front page of the Boston and New York tabloids.

Her mother was in a trapeze accident when lightning struck while she was performing. The narrator considers this the second time her life was saved, because it was in the hospital after the accident that her mother met her father.

I owe my existence, the second time then, to the two of them and the hospital that brought them together. That is the debt we take for granted since none of us asks for life. It is only once we have it that we hang on so dearly.

If her mother had died, or had not been in the accident at all, her mother and father would not have met and the narrator would not exist. So again, while saving her own life her mother saved hers, by creating the possibility of her being born.

The third time her mother saved her life was the most spectacular. There was a fire, and the narrator was trapped inside. She was only seven years old, but there was no chance of rescue. Since the firefighters could do nothing, her mother took a literal leap of faith to save her.

I didn't see her leap through air, only heard the sudden thump and looked out my window. She was hanging by the backs of her heels from the new gutter we had put in that year, and she was smiling. I was not surprised to see her, she was so matter-of-fact.

The narrator’s mother is clearly an amazing woman. Telling this story is her way of attempting to get closer to her. Her mother faces many close calls. The narrator recounts the impact that her mother had on her life through the most spectacular events in her mother’s life.

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