Every family has their own idioms, their own inside jokes. Think about it. What’s something your family has that’s uniquely your own, and when you try and explain it to someone, they just don’t really get it? You’ll see what I mean in a second…
When my Nonno was a little boy in Italy, there was a man in his village named Tittitok who was a very strange man (by 1920s Italian standards). Everyone in the village thought he was crazy because he was an old hermit who lived on the outskirts of town and didn’t talk to anyone. His only real interaction with people was when he would come into town with his cow and sell the milk.
Now, let me stop right here. I know it sounds weird to some people today because of Pasteurization, etc., but, if you think about it, it was kind of ahead of its time. This is the original “raw milk” diet!
Anyway, so just because this man had little interaction with people and seemed to talk more to his cow than other humans, people thought he was pazzo. People thought that maybe Tittitok wasn’t crazy, but the cow was! And if you drink the milk from a vacca di Tittitok, you’ll go crazy, too!
Like I said…Italy in the 1920s.
But this phrase stuck with Nonno so much, that whenever us kids were being crazy, Nonno would shout, “A vacca di Tittitok!” meaning, “You’re being crazy! You must’ve drank milk from Tittiok’s cow!”
Now, that’s where one story ends and another begins…
A few years ago, I pitched for an anthology that didn’t get off the ground. It was an anthology that was exploring mental health. I was lucky enough to work with the incredibly talented artist Emily Pearson on an eight-paged story titled “A vacca di Tittitok.” I wanted to explore the world of a man I never met, and whose existence was made the butt of a joke for my family for years.
Whenever I asked Nonno about Tittitok, he’d always say that no one really knew anything about him, but that he was just a harmless hermit. Like Ben Kenobi? I pictured Tittitok living with his cow (bantha) out past the Dune Sea! No, Erica…that’s not who this man was. The truth actually was that no one really cared to find out what happened to Tittitok (if something did) or if he had a story to tell.
So when Emily and I got together for this anthology, I told her the story of Tittitok, and I decided to give him a story. Why was he a hermit? What happened to him? The below is the story Emily, Cardinal Rae (who lettered it) and I put together. We hope you enjoy it.