As the story "The Leap" opens the narrator has returned to care for her aging mother who is blinded by cataracts. With the use of flashbacks, the narrator reflects that she owes her own existence to her mother on three separate counts. She then describes these three instances:
1. As part of a blind-fold trapeze act, the Flying Avalons, the narrator's mother, Anna, survived a terrible accident caused by lightning striking the circus pole, which crashed just as she and her husband Harry Avalon had let go of their swings. Instead of grabbing her husband's ankle, Anna tore off her blindfold, curving her body enough to grasp the burning support wires of the crashing pole. Her survival meant the birth of the narrator later on.
2. While she was in the hospital where her severely burned hands were treated, Anna had inadvertently suffered a broken arm as well when an over-zealous rescuer grabbed her. Therefore, because the break was rather complicated, a doctor experienced in rehabilitating soldiers was called in. He offered more than care for her arm, teaching her to read as she described all the cities in the world that she had visited. Moreover, he restored her vigor for life after she loses a baby, and he fostered a love of reading which ends only with her blindness. This husband loves and cares for the narrator, as well.
3. When the narrator was seven years old, she is asleep upstairs and her little sister had fallen asleep in her father's den while their parents are away. A fire broke out from some smoldering ashes; the little sister awoke, but could not get past the fire to go upstairs. She used the phone, and ran outside; when the parents arrived, neighbors and firemen were attempting to reach the now awake narrator; however, no one could reach her. Acting quickly to save her daughter, Anna strips off her dress, climbs a tree whose branches are near the house; she leaps from the branch and catches her heels in the gutter. Hanging upside down, she lightly touches her daughter's window, instructing her to prop it open and step into her arms. Swiftly they drop, the mother pointing her toes at the fireman's net. The narrator reflects,
I know that she's right. I knew it even then. As you fall there is time to think. Curled as I was, against her stomach, I was not startled by the cries of the crowd or the looming faces.
As they fall to safety, the narrator feels her mother lips against her and hears her thundering heart.