The authors sisters, Lisa and Sarah Weaver on top and in the middle, and Katie on the bottom, taken in July 2011 while on summer holidays in Sylvan Lake, Alta., after a long day of lake swimming.
What it’s like to belong to one of YK’s oldest families
by Katie Weaver
“So, which Weaver do you belong to?”
Ah, the most often-asked question put to any Weaver kid in the ever-growing city of Yellowknife. Here, when I meet someone new, I needn’t answer any common questions about how long I’ve lived here, or what my parents do, or even anything regarding my personality. All people need to know is that I’m a Weaver and everything automatically becomes clear. Being one of the founding families of this town, you could say we are the northern version of the Kardashians: we’re widely known, we like to drink and there are way too many of us. Being a Weaver is not just being part of a family — being a Weaver is a lifestyle.
The Weaver lifestyle has been constructed upon years and years of history. To the best of my knowledge, it all began when my great-grandpa, Harry Weaver, started up Weaver & Devore — Yellowknife’s first and longest-standing general store – with his business partner/drinking buddy Bud Devore (my fathers namesake) in 1936. Everybody helped out with that store — my grandparents, my dad, and each of his seven siblings. Ever since my dad and I can remember, on Friday nights after floors were mopped, Weavers and a few select friends would drink in the back of the store. To this day, this still happens every Friday night. I’ve never been back there and not heard roaring laughter throughout the night.
However, our lifestyle is not all fun and games.
I’ve watched my dad come home after working 11-12 hours, six days a week, exhausted. I’ve seen the physical tolls the labour has taken on his strong body, still lifting 50-pound sacks of potatoes in each hand when unloading the weekly freight trucks, despite his age. I’ve tried my hand at working at Weaver & Devore, but I quickly became more of a burden than an asset to the business. What can I say; I’m a peaceful writer. The high-stress environment wasn’t for me. Still, just being in the store has exposed me to the true meaning of hard work. My uncles, aunts and parents have dedicated their lives to that busy place, and I respect them for their work ethic and perseverance. They are role models for the way I plan to attack my future career.
There are perks to being part of such a unique family, and then, there are downfalls. I remember my first day at William McDonald Middle School, way back in 2006. Well, that’s a lie — I remember one little part of my first day. I was at my locker between classes and a tall, skinny, bald man approached me from behind. “Are you a Weaver?” he asked me. I looked up at this stranger’s poker-face and timidly nodded. He replied with a curt, “I hate Weavers,” turned around and walked away. I felt doomed. In that moment, I couldn’t help but think, “Aw, man. Why do I have to be a Weaver?” I only learned the context of his comment much later. He was a teacher who had seen a few Weavers prior to me in his time teaching there. One of them — a cousin — he often teased and vice versa; even taping her chatty mouth shut in class one day as a joke. I guess he figured it was only natural to tease me, too. After all, the apple doesn’t fall far from its cousin trees.
But, I’ve grown up since then. I’ve gained enough life experience in my 17 years to understand that being a Weaver is special. For example, our family gatherings at Christmas and Thanksgiving are the most storybook evenings anyone could ever dream of. Our magic number is usually around 30 guests. All my first cousins, their children, my aunts and my uncles squish together around a series of tables. Until I grew older, I never realized what a treat it is to have so much family where I live, being able to sit down with all of them and enjoy a meal cooked by all of us during the holidays. The nights always have the same elements, my personal favourite being the dozen overlapping voices of uncles laughing and knee-slapping at their own jokes. It never gets old for me.
Another thing that I will never tire of is the traditional song sung by Weavers at birthday parties. The song follows directly after the typical “Happy Birthday” song, and it goes like this: “We hope yah live to be one hundred, we hope yah live to be one hundred, we hope yah live to be one hundred, one hundred years or more. YEEHAW!” I know, that’s so Weaver. I quickly realized it was only performed at Weaver birthdays when I began to sing it at my friends’ parties, and I was the only one who knew the lyrics. Once I hit my pre-teens, having my parents belt out this foot-stomping country birthday tune in front of my friends embarrassed me. I was in the “too cool” stage. Nowadays, my friends have learned to sing along, and I’ve embraced the song, ready to pass it down to my children. The day I’m away from home at university, and I don’t hear that song on my birthday will be a strange one.
Yes, it’s the little things that make being a Weaver special, like writing a test about your family. Part of the mandatory Northern Studies course at Sir John Franklin High School involves learning the history of Yellowknife. Vegetating in class and perking up to the teacher lecturing about your grand-dad? Finding books in the school library with pictures of your family? Watching videos in class that show the very store where the bulk of your family spends most of their days? That can make you look forward to a class.
Growing up a Weaver has another big perk. Constant candy hook-ups. It was a fat kid’s fantasy. I could walk into that store like I owned it (Oh, wait…) and walk out with all the candy my little potbelly desired. But this easy access to store merchandise has its downsides. For one thing, I’m thinking people are beginning to think I’m poor or unhygienic or something. I have been wearing the same jacket since Grade 8 (social suicide in a teenager’s world). Not because I adore it, not because it is very warm, but because it isn’t from Weaver & Devore. See, when I hit Grade 8, I decided it was time to own a more stylish coat that wasn’t from our store. So, I had my parents buy me a $300 coat from Overlander Sports. This was the first coat in my family that wasn’t from Weaver & Devore, so my parents said if I’m going to wear it, I better damn well wear that coat until it cannot be worn anymore. So, here I am, still wearing that stupid coat which, by the way, provides nowhere near close to the warmth a Weaver & Devore coat could.
Additionally, us Weavers don’t drink any Coke products. In fact, Coke is referred to as “the four-letter word” in my home. I have a couple uncles who run Territorial Beverages Ltd., which supplies only Pepsi products. Kids sometimes gave me pretty weird looks when they’d offer me a sip of their Coke and I’d run away. I truly thought there was something wrong with Coke! Like a soldier knowing his enemy, I will always stray away from Coke products, regardless of where I am.
As little girls, my two sisters and I have all asked my mother at one point in time, “Mommy, are we famous?” She would chuckle and tell us no, but the fact that our budding minds thought we were, is a statement in itself. I love being so in touch with my history, and having such a large part of my community in touch with it too. I love that when I’m going to the mall with my dad, it takes us double the time because he’s so busy talking to people who know him. I love that I can flip through a local magazine and be surprised with an article regarding my uncles. I love the look teachers give me on the first day when they notice my last name while reading through the attendance list for the first time. I love that I’m never the only Weaver in my school. Above all, though, I love how there is no other family like mine. Hate us or love us, we will keep on listening to Shania Twain and George Jones (at his Yellowknife concert, we had a table at the front reserved just for Weavers) at full blast, and telling the same old jokes, and revealing ancient stories of the crazy stuff we did back in the day. We’re certainly different, and I look forward to raising my children the way I’ve been raised: a Weaver.