The book, in fact memoirs, describes the first ten years of the child’s life, held in Ufa and the villages of the Orenburg province.
The author reproduces the child’s perception, for which everything is new and everything is equally important, events are not divided into main and secondary: therefore in the “Children’s Years” the plot is practically absent.
Everything starts with incoherent but vivid memories of infancy and early childhood – a person remembers how he was taken from a wet nurse, remembers a long illness, from which he nearly died – one sunny morning when he felt better, a strange bottle of Rheinwein, a hang-up pine resin in a new wooden house, etc. The most frequent image is the road: travel was considered a medicine. Serezha regains his health after he gets especially bad on a big trip and parents forced to stop in the woods, made him a bed in the tall grass, where he lay for twelve hours, unable to move, and “suddenly just woke up.” After the illness the child experiences a “feeling of pity for everything suffering.”
With each reminiscence of Seryozha, “the constant presence of the mother” merges, “which left him and loved, perhaps, therefore, more than his other children.
Consecutive memories begin at the age of four. Sergei with his parents and younger sister live in Ufa. The disease “brought the nerves of the boy to an extreme sensitivity”. According to the stories of the nurse, he is afraid of the dead, darkness and so on. . He was taught to read so early that he does not even remember it; He had only one book, he knew it by heart and read it aloud to his sister every day; so that when Sergei Anichkov’s neighbor gave him “Children’s Reading for the Heart and Mind” of Novikov, the boy, carried away by books, was “just like a madman”. Particularly impressed were the articles explaining thunder, snow, metamorphosis of insects, etc.
Mother, exhausted by Seryozha’s illness, was afraid that she herself became sick with tuberculosis, her parents gathered in Orenburg for a good doctor; The children were taken to Bagrovo, to the father’s parents. The road hit the child: crossing the White, collected pebbles and fossils – “ores”, large trees, spending the night in the field and especially – fishing on Deme, which immediately brought the boy crazy as much as reading, the fire extracted by flint, and the fire of the luncheon, springs, etc. Curiously everything, even that, “as the earth adhered to wheels and then fell off from them thick layers”. Father rejoices all this with Seryozha, and beloved mother, on the contrary, is indifferent and even disgusted.
The people encountered on the road are not only new, but also incomprehensible: the joy of the generic Bagrov peasants who met the family in the village of Parashina is incomprehensible, the relations of the peasants with the “terrible” headman, etc., are incomprehensible; the child sees, by the way, the harvest in the heat, and this causes an “inexpressible feeling of compassion.”
Patriarchal Bagrov does not like the boy: the house is small and sad, the grandmother and aunt are dressed no better than the servants in Ufa, the grandfather is harsh and scary. Children do not like the proud daughter-in-law, who “squeamish” Crimson. In Bagrov, so inhospitable that even they fed children badly, my brother and sister lived for over a month. Sergei is entertained, frightening his sister with stories about unprecedented adventures and reading aloud to her and her beloved “uncle” Evseich. Auntie gave the boy “Dream Book” and some vaudeville, which strongly influenced his imagination.
After Bagrova, returning home so affected the boy that he, again surrounded by love, suddenly grew up. The house is visited by young brothers of the mother, military men who graduated from the Moscow University noble board: from them Seryozha learns what verses are, one of his uncles paints and teaches this to Sergei, which makes him seem like a “higher being” to the boy. SI Anichkov gives new books: “Anabasis” Xenophon and “Children’s Library” Shishkov.
Uncle and a friend of their adjutant Volkov, playing, tease the boy, incidentally, for the fact that he does not know how to write; Seryozha takes offense seriously and one day rushes to fight; he is punished and demanded that he ask for forgiveness, but the boy considers himself right; one in a room, put in a corner, he dreams and, finally, falls ill with excitement and fatigue. Adults are ashamed, and the matter ends in a general reconciliation.
At the request of Seryozha, they begin to teach him to write, inviting the teacher from the public school. Once, apparently, on someone’s advice, Seryozha is sent there for a lesson: rudeness and disciples and teachers, flogging the blame greatly frighten the child.
Father Seryozha buys seven thousand acres of land with lakes and forests and calls it “Sergeevskoy wasteland”, than the boy is very proud. Parents gather in... Sergeevka to treat their mother with Bashkir koumiss, in the spring, when Belaya opens. Seryozha can not think of anything else and watches with tension the ice drift and the flood of the river.
In Sergeevka, the house is not completed for the gentlemen, but even this is amusing: “There are no windows and no doors, but the fishing rods are ready.” Until the end of July, Serezha, father and uncle Yevseich, are fishing on Lake Kiishki, which the boy considers his own; Seryozha sees rifle hunting for the first time and feels “some greed, some unknown joy.” The summer is spoiled only by guests, though infrequent: strangers, even peers, weigh Sergei.
After Sergeevka Ufa “disgusted”. Seryozha is entertained only by his neighbor’s new gift: the collection of Sumarokov’s works and the poem “Rossiad” by Kheraskov, which he recites and tells his family of various fictional details about his favorite characters. The mother laughs, and the father worries: “Where does this all come from? Do not become a liar.” News of the death of Catherine II comes, the people swear allegiance to Pavel Petrovich; the child listens attentively to the conversations of worried adults that are not always clear to him.
The news comes that the grandfather is dying, and the family immediately gathers in Bagrovo. Seryozha is afraid to see the dying grandfather, he is afraid that the mamma will get sick from all this, that in winter they will freeze on the way. On the way, the boy is tormented with sad forebodings, and the belief in presentiment takes root from then on in him for life.
Grandpa dies a day after the arrival of relatives, children have time to say goodbye to him; “All of Seryozha’s feelings” are suppressed by fear “; especially amaze his explanation nanny Parasha, why the grandfather does not cry and does not cry: he is paralyzed, “looks into all eyes and only moves his lips.” “I felt the whole eternity of flour, which you can not tell to others.”
The behavior of Bagrov’s relatives unpleasantly surprises the boy: four aunts howl, fell to the feet of his brother – “the real master in the house,” the grandmother emphatically gives in to the power of the mother, and the mother is disgusted. At the table, all but the Mother, cry and eat with great appetite. And then, after dinner, in the corner room, looking at the unfrozen Buguruslan, the boy first understands the beauty of winter nature.
Returning to Ufa, the boy again experiences a shock: giving birth to another son, his mother almost dies.
After becoming the master of Bagrov after the death of his grandfather, Father Seryozha retires, and the family moves to Bagrova for permanent living. Rural work is very much occupied by Sergei; he does not understand why the mother and little sister are indifferent to this. A good boy tries to regret and comfort the grandmother, who has grown so weak after her husband’s death, which he did not really know before; but her wont to beat the household, quite common in the landlord mode of life, quickly turns her grandson away from her.
Parents Serezha calls Praskovya Kurolesova; Serezha’s father is considered her heir and therefore will not contradict this clever and kind, but powerful and rude woman. The rich, albeit somewhat lurid, house of the widow Kurolesova at first seems to the child a palace from the fairytales of Scheherazade. Having become friends with Serezha’s mother, the widow does not agree to let the family back to Bagrovo for a long time; Meanwhile, a fussy life in someone else’s house, eternally filled with guests, tires Sergei, and he looks with impatience on his already sweet Bagrov.
Returning to Bagrovo, Seryozha really sees spring for the first time in his life in the village: “I watched every spring step.” In each room, almost in every window, I saw special objects or places on which I made my observations… “From the excitement of the boy begins insomnia; that the better he falls asleep, the housekeeper Pelageya tells him fairy tales, and by the way – “The Scarlet Flower”.
In autumn, at the request of Kurolesova, the Crimson guests are in Churasov. Father Seryozha promised his grandmother to return to the Pokrov; Kurolesova does not let go; on the night of Pokrov the father sees a terrible dream and in the morning he receives news of his grandmother’s illness. The autumn road back is heavy; crossing near Simbirsk across the Volga, the family nearly drowned. Grandmother died in the Pokrov itself; this terribly amazes both Seryozhin’s father and capricious Kurolesov.
Next winter, the Crimson gather in Kazan, pray to the miracle-workers there: there was never only Serezha, but his mother. In Kazan, they plan to spend no more than two weeks, but everything turns out differently: Serezha expects “the beginning of the most important event” in his life. Here the childhood of Bagrov-grandson ends and adolescence begins.